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Iran audio leak sought to sow ‘discord’ amid N-talks: Rouhani

TEHRAN: An audiotape of Iran’s top diplomat bemoaning the military’s influence was leaked to sow “discord” during talks focused on reviving an international nuclear deal, President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday after the recording stirred domestic controversy.

The recording of Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was published by media outside Iran, triggering a heated debate inside the country ahead of presidential elections.

The talks in Vienna are aimed at getting the United States to return to the agreement it abandoned under former president Donald Trump, lift sanctions, and Iran to resume full compliance with nuclear obligations it retreated from in response.

Rouhani said the audio was leaked just as the Vienna talks were “at the height of their success so that it creates discord inside” the Islamic republic.

“We can only lift sanctions through unity,” the president said.

Zarif has been under fire since the audiotape emerged on Sunday, with comments he made about Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards’ foreign operations arm who was killed in a US airstrike last year, hitting a nerve.

“In the Islamic republic the military field rules,” Zarif said in the recording, quoted by the New York Times. “I have sacrificed diplomacy for the military field rather than the field servicing diplomacy.”

Zarif, seen as the architect of the 2015 nuclear accord, has been mentioned as a possible contender in the June 18 presidential election, although he has said he does not plan to run.

Another potential candidate, parliament speaker Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf, weighed in on the issue on Wednesday, saying “We are sensitive on Haj Qasem”. — AFP

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