DUBAI, Sept 22 Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard
has warned of the dangers of dealing with U.S. officials, ahead
of expected diplomatic contacts, underlining the internal
challenges President Hassan Rouhani could face to improve ties
with the West.
Rouhani is expected to pursue a charm offensive in the
coming week while in New York for the U.N. General Assembly in
order to set the right tone for further nuclear talks with world
powers which he hopes will bring relief from sanctions,
according to diplomats and analysts.
Hours before leaving for New York on Sunday, the new Iranian
president said that Tehran was ready for negotiations with
Western powers provided they set no pre-conditions. He also said
the world needed to accept Iran's right to enrich uranium.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) military force
was established to safeguard Iran's revolution in 1979 and has
since influenced political, social and economic affairs.
"Historical experiences make it necessary for the diplomatic
apparatus of our country to carefully and sceptically monitor
the behaviour of White House officials so that the righteous
demands of our nation are recognised and respected by those who
favour interaction," an IRGC statement said.
It added the IRGC would support initiatives that were in
line with national interests and strategies set forth by Iran's
theocratic leader and highest authority, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The United States and its allies have imposed tough economic
sanctions on Iran over suspicions Tehran intends to develop a
nuclear capability. Iran says the programme is purely peaceful.
The IRGC statement, published by Iran's Tasnim news agency
on Saturday and marking the 33rd anniversary of the start of the
Iran-Iraq war, came days after Khamenei and Rouhani told the
security hardliners to stay out of politics, in effect
instructing them not to scupper the new centrist government's
attempt to resolve the nuclear dispute.
The 125,000-strong IRGC has a military budget that is said
to dwarf that of the regular armed forces. Its top commanders
are handpicked by Khamenei but its clout also derives from
former members who have occupied positions of influence in
business, parliament and across provincial government.
Rouhani spoke about negotiations with the West when
addressing the military parade on Sunday to commemorate the
annual "Sacred Defence Week".
"In these talks all the rights of Iran, including nuclear
and enrichment rights on our own territory should be accepted
within the framework of international law," he said, according
to state news agency IRNA.
Rouhani also paid homage to Iran's armed forces and
indicated that the country would not forget about the suffering
former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein imposed on Iran, and his
backing from Arab and western states.
Iranian television showed footage of the parade featuring
Sajjil and Ghadr missiles which commanders claim have a range of
about 2,000 km (1,200 miles). Media reports said the latest air
defence systems were also showcased.
"Our armed forces do not aim to dominate and colonise the
region but in the face of aggression they will not dither and
will defend the independence and the honour of our country and
revolution with all their might," Rouhani said.
U.S. President Barack Obama and his aides have made clear
that they are ready to test Rouhani's intentions to seek a
diplomatic solution to the nuclear dispute.
The White House has left open the possibility Obama and
Rouhani could meet on the sidelines of the U.N. meeting, and a
U.S. official has privately acknowledged the administration's
desire to engineer a handshake between the two leaders, which
would be the highest-level U.S.-Iranian contact since the 1979
Last week, Khamenei appeared to give his strongest
endorsement yet to Rouhani's attempts to initiate talks with the
United States, saying he agreed with "heroic flexibility".
Reflecting optimism over Rouhani's diplomatic initiative,
Iran's currency, the rial, has strengthened against the dollar
by more than six percent. Open-market traders currently offer
around 29,000 rials to the dollar versus 31,500 a week ago.