Tehran Mayor Backs Fair Talks with US

A01592006.jpgTEHRAN (FNA)- The mayor of Tehran, a possible contender for the Iranian presidency, said Friday his country would welcome talks with the United States as supported by White House contender Barack Obama, but meantime stressed that such talks should be fair and on equal standing.

Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf expressed hope that Obama would make good on calls to hold dialogue with Iran should the Democrat win the November 4 election.

“Senator Obama said in his presidential campaign that he would like to have such a relationship,” Qalibaf said.

The mayor said any talks must be to the mutual benefit of the two countries and “without any sense of pressure.”

“I think the world community, the Iranian society and the US society would benefit” from such talks, he told reporters during a visit to Tokyo at the invitation of the Japanese government.

Obama has said Washington must engage in “tough, direct diplomacy” with Iran, but that as president he would have the right “to meet with anybody at a time and place of my choosing if I think it’s going to keep America safe.”

His approach contrasts with the current hardline US policies. President George W. Bush famously named Iran as a part of an “axis of evil”. An escalating nuclear standoff between Iran and the West and warmongering rhetoric from Bush and his Israeli allies have only deepened the hostility.

Qalibaf, seen as a contender for next year’s presidential election, pressed Washington to withdraw troops from Iraq and said that “superpowers” must acknowledge an Iranian role in bringing stability to the Middle East.

Echoing other Iranian leaders, Qalibaf called for a country encompassing both Israel and the Palestinian territories to replace the so-called Zionist state.

“Muslims, Christians, and Jews… must be allowed to return to their own land and, through a democratic and free election, choose the type of government they would like to have,” he said.

He also defended Iran’s nuclear program, saying it is within the framework of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

“I think we should be worried about those countries that are not members of (the) IAEA and possess atomic weapons,” he said in reference to Israel.

“I think Iran should continue with its nuclear activities. But I think it should do the best to have complete confidence building measures through supervision of the IAEA,” he said.

Qalibaf, who unsuccessfully ran for president in 2005, is considered a conservative.

The mayor said the next Iranian leader should focus improving lives for ordinary people.

“I believe the next administration, no matter who comes to power, should pay attention to economic and development issues in such ways that we will have comprehensive development of our country,” he said.

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