Iran calls on Muslim countries not to depend on ‘foreigners’

As Washington threatens to withdraw from nuclear deal, Rouhani says ‘we should… count on our own capacities’

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks in a cabinet meeting in Tehran, Iran, December 31, 2017. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks in a cabinet meeting in Tehran, Iran, December 31, 2017. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani called on Tuesday for more solidarity between Muslim countries and for them not to depend on “foreigners” for their development.

His comments come after Washington threatened to withdraw from a landmark deal between Tehran and world powers that lifted crippling sanctions in exchange for curbs to Iran’s nuclear program.

“Only non-dependence on foreigners and increased solidarity between Muslim countries will allow us to overcome the Islamic world’s problems,” Rouhani said.

“We should… count on our own capacities” to ensure “growth and development,” he said at the opening in Tehran of a session of the parliamentary union of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

But “this does not mean we should seek isolation,” he added.

Rouhani, who secured the 2015 nuclear deal, has come under fire from ultra-conservatives who believe the accord benefits only the West.

The government has been trying to encourage European firms to do business with or invest in Iran.

On an international level, “we support constructive interaction on an equal footing… that leaves no room for exploitation, colonialism or interference in internal affairs,” he said.

He spoke after a wave of deadly protests across the country from December 28 to January 1 over the dire state of the economy during which some demonstrators called for regime change.

Twenty-five people were killed in the unrest, according to the authorities.

The United States publicly supported the demonstrators, while the European Union condemned the “unacceptable loss of human lives” and stressed that peaceful protest and freedom of expression are “fundamental rights.”

Rouhani accused the West of believing that “Islam and democracy are incompatible” and of using “this pretext to subject Muslim countries to a new colonialism.”

“Reinforcing democracy and listening to people’s opinions are our primary strategy to face the West,” the president added.

Rouhani has pushed for greater civil liberties in the wake of the unrest.

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