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'Elders' group meets Iran's President Rouhani

Tuesday - 1/28/2014, 7:10am  ET

NASSER KARIMI
Associated Press

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran's President Hassan Rouhani called Tuesday for unity in trying to end the Syrian civil war in a meeting with a former United Nations secretary-general and his delegation.

Kofi Annan is in Tehran with former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, Nobel Peace laureate Desmond Tutu and Mexico's former President Ernesto Zedillo as part of "The Elders," a group convened by the late Nelson Mandela. They met Tuesday with Rouhani, who spoke afterward with journalists.

"We should get united for ending war and massacre in Syria," Rouhani said in remarks reported by the semi-official ISNA news agency. "Stopping both support and deployment of arms to terrorist groups by some regional countries is the most important step."

Shiite regional powerhouse Iran is a major backer of embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad in his battle against largely Sunni rebel forces.

Rouhani also assured Annan's delegation that Iran's contested nuclear program won't be used militarily.

"All our activities have been peaceful and will remain peaceful," Rouhani said. "Iran does not need anything more than its rights based on non-proliferation treaty."

Meanwhile Tuesday, state television reported that a team of inspectors from the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency had arrived in Iran to visit the southwestern Gachin uranium mine Wednesday. In December, Iran allowed inspectors to visit Iran's Arak heavy water plant.

In November, Iran reached a historic deal with world powers to reduce its uranium enrichment in exchange for the easing of some Western sanctions over six months. Iran and the world powers soon will begin negotiations on a final agreement.

The West fears Iran's nuclear program could allow it to build an atomic bomb. Iran denies the charge, saying its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes like power generation and cancer treatment.

On Monday, Annan's delegation met Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. After that meeting, Annan said the group urged Iran to build on the six-month nuclear deal.


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