Iran president urges Arab leaders to accept reform

AFP , Tuesday 12 Jul 2011

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad urged Arab governments to heed popular demands for reform at a meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu

"Today, the people of the region must enjoy equal rights, the right to vote, security and dignity, and no government can deprive them of freedom and justice or refuse their peoples' demands," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran believes that all regional governments can run their countries by introducing reforms and realising their peoples' demands," he added in the Monday evening talks.

Ahmadinejad did not explicitly mention Iran's closest Arab ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has faced unprecedented protests against his iron-fisted rule since mid-March. But Iranian media had reported that the persistent clashes between security forces and demonstrators in Syria would top the agenda of the meeting.

At a joint press conference with Davutoglu on Sunday, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said that Syria's problems can be solved within "the family." "Iran, Syria and Turkey are members of a family and, if one faces a problem, the family as whole should solve it," Salehi said.

"The path of talks among the family members should lead to dealing with the legitimate demands of the people" and preventing "inappropriate interference," he added.

Ahmadinejad accused Washington of stirring up confessional rivalries in the region, including between Syria's Sunni Muslim majority and the minority Alawite community to which Assad belongs.

"The countries in the region should not play into Americans' hands," the president's website quoted him as saying.

"They are seeking through deception to create a fight between Shiites and Sunnis, Alawites and non-Alawites, Turks and Kurds in order to reach their main goal which is saving the Zionist regime."

Iran itself faced down huge protests in 2009 against alleged fraud in a presidential election that saw Ahmadinejad given a second term of office.

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