Iran's Rohani to Cement Ties with North Korea, Syria and Latin America

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By Vasudevan Sridharan | August 4, 2013 8:53 PM EST

New Iranian President Hassan Rohani (Reuters)

Iran's new president Hassan Rohani has set down a marker for a continuation of his country's foreign policy, lashing out at the United States and swearing allegiance to existing allies.

On the sidelines of his inauguration, Rohani, widely considered a moderate, held talks with leaders of several nations that are ranged against the US. He said Iran would strengthen its ties with North Korea, Syria and Latin America.

Joining hands with North Korea, Rohani accused the US of finding pretexts to confront unfriendly countries.

"We believe the United States and the westerners are seeking an excuse to confront the countries that they do not consider friends," Rohani said after a short meeting with North Korea's No 2, Kim Yong Nam, according to reports.

Both Iran and North Korea have been subjected to economic embargoes because of their controversial nuclear programmes.

Rohani also expressed support for the embattled Syrian regime after holding talks with Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi.

Reaffirming Iran's existing position, Rohani said: "We have and will always consider the Syrian nation as our friend and brother. The Islamic Republic of Iran is upset about the presence of terrorist elements and foreign interference in Syria and condemns it."

Rohani, who cruised to a landslide victory in the presidential elections on 14 June, was widely expected to tone down Iran's policy rhetoric.

A strongly worded speech against Israel was later retracted by Iran's quasi-official agency, which claimed citing it was incorrectly reported.

Rohani has also pledged to press ahead with a crucial oil and gas pipeline project with Pakistan. After meeting his Pakistan counterpart, Asif Ali Zardari, Rohani said the project is nearing completion.

"The joint project of building the gas pipeline can have a significant influence on increasing cooperation and economic relations between the two countries," he said.

Iran, which has close relations with several Latin American countries, is also likely to strengthen its ties in the region. Leaders of Cuba and Nicaragua, who were present at Rohani's swearing-in ceremony, also vowed to strengthen relations.

India, which has complex ties with Iran, and is seen as toeing the US line on some issues, also sent its vice-president to represent the country.

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