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Iran

Iran's President Rouhani offers to mediate Syria conflict

Iran President Hasan Rouhani has offered to broker talks between the Syrian regime and the opposition. His comments come ahead of a possible meeting with US President Barack Obama at the UN General Assembly next week.

"We must create an atmosphere where peoples of the region can decide their own fates," Rouhani wrote in an article for the Washington Post newspaper published early Friday (late Thursday US time). "As part of this, I announce my government's readiness to help facilitate dialogue between the Syrian government and the opposition."

The Iranian president said he wanted to pursue a policy of "constructive engagement" in finding an end to Syria's more than two year conflict.

More than 100,000 people have died in the country's civil war between President Bashar al-Assad's government and a wide array of rebel groups.

Obama, Rowhani meeting?

Rouhani, who is scheduled to address the UN General Assembly in New York on Tuesday, has also refused to rule out a historic face-to-face meeting with President Barack Obama.

"Anything is possible in the world of politics," he told broadcaster NBC.

The White House has also so far not taken talks between Obama and Rouhani off the table, though no meetings between the two are currently scheduled.

Rouhani has been indicating an interest in negotiations with the US and other Iranian rivals over his country's disputed nuclear program ever since winning the presidential election in June.

Disputes over Syria

Iran and the US have also come down on opposite sides of the Syrian conflict. Iran, a majority-Shiite Muslim country, is an ally of Assad, whose family are Alawites, a minority Shiite sect. Although Syria is a majority Sunni Muslim country, the Assad family has ruled the nation for decades.

The US, on the other hand, accuses the Syrian government of using chemical weapons on its own people in an attack last month outside Damascus and had threatened retaliatory military action. UN envoys are currently debating a draft resolution on a joint US-Russian plan to take control of and destroy Assad's chemical weapons stockpile.

"As I depart for New York for the opening of the UN General Assembly, I urge my counterparts to seize the opportunity presented by Iran's election," Rouhani wrote in the Washington Post. "I urge them to make the most of the mandate for prudent engagement that my people have given me and respond genuinely to my government's efforts to engage in constructive dialogue."

dr/ccp (dpa, AFP)