May 16, 2021

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Leaked recording of Iran’s top diplomat offers blunt talk

A recording of Iran’s foreign minister offering a blunt appraisal of diplomacy and the limits of power within the Islamic Republic has leaked out publicly

Outside of Iran, Zarif’s comments could also affect talks in Vienna aimed at finding a way for Tehran and the U.S. to both come into compliance with Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. Already, sabotage targeted Iran’s nuclear facility at Natanz during the talks as Tehran has begun enriching a small amount of uranium up to 60% purity, which edges the country closer to weapons-grade levels.

After the leak became public, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh did not dispute the tape’s authenticity. He told journalists on Monday that the recording represented just a portion of a seven-hour interview Zarif gave to a well-known economist that was to be held for posterity by a think tank associated with the Iranian presidency.

Khatibzadeh called the release of the recording “illegal” and described it as “selectively” edited, though he and others did not offer opinions on how it became public.

Portions of the leaked interview first aired overnight on Iran International, a London-based, Farsi-language satellite news channel once majority owned by a Saudi national. Tehran has criticized Iran International in the past for its airing of a militant spokesman who praised a 2018 militant attack on a military parade in Ahvaz that killed at least 25 people, including a child. British regulators later rejected an Iranian complaint over the segment.

Iran International shared a file with a little over three hours of the interview with an Associated Press correspondent based in the United Arab Emirates on Monday.

“If Iran hadn’t become Mr. (Donald) Trump’s priority, China and Russia would have become his priority,” Zarif said. “If, because of hostility with the West, we always need Russia and China, they don’t have to compete with anyone, and also they can always enjoy maximum benefits through us.”

Both China and Russia have been vocal proponents of returning to the nuclear deal. Their missions in Vienna did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

The recordings also include Zarif offering criticism of Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani’s separate relations with Russia as well. A U.S. drone strike in 2020 killed Solemani in Baghdad, an attack that at the time brought the U.S. and Iran to the brink of war. Soleimani’s funeral processions in Iran drew millions of people to the streets.

“You don’t have to take my word for it,” Pompeo wrote, noting Zarif’s comments.

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Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP.

Original News : https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/leaked-recording-irans-top-diplomat-offers-blunt-talk-77314437

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