Iran’s president: Extremists want to destroy civilization

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UNITED NATIONS — Iran’s president warned world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly on Thursday that the goal of extremists creating chaos in the Mideast is the destruction of civilization and rise of Islamophobia.

Hassan Rouhani said the Islamic terrorists want to create “a fertile ground for further intervention of foreign forces in our region.”

In a wide-ranging speech, he also said a nuclear agreement is possible before the November deadline if the West wants a deal and shows flexibility.

He said an agreement would create a new day for cooperation in the region and internationally, including on combating violence and extremism.

Rouhani said many parts of the Middle East “are currently burning in fire of extremism and radicalism” and expressed deep regret that terrorism has become globalized.

Terrorism is now a threat “from New York to Mosul, from Damascus to Baghdad, from the easternmost to the westernmost parts of the world, from al-Qaeda to Daesh,” the Iranian leader said, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State extremist group.

He said extremists come to the Middle East from around the world with a single ideology, “violence and extremism.”

“The extremists of the world have found each other and have put out the call: ‘extremists of the world unite,’ ” Rouhani said. “But are we united against the extremists?”

Rouhani said all countries that founded and supported the terrorist groups must acknowledge that their errors have led to extremism and apologize not only to the past generation but to the next generation.

He addressed the assembly as representatives from six major powers — the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany — continued nuclear talks on the sidelines of the meeting of world leaders.

The negotiations have been stalled for months over Iran’s opposition to sharply reducing the size and output of centrifuges that can enrich uranium both to levels needed for reactor fuel or the core of nuclear warheads. Iran says its enrichment program is only for peaceful purposes, but the United States fears it could be used to make a bomb. Iran says any deal must put an end to the sanctions that have crippled the Iranian economy.

Rouhani told the General Assembly that Iran is determined to continue its confidence-building approach and transparency in the nuclear negotiations.

If the six parties “are also equally motivated and flexible, and we can overcome the problem and reach a longstanding agreement within the time remaining, then an entirely different environment will emerge for cooperation and regional and international levels, allowing for greater focus on some very important regional issues such as combating violence and extremism in the region,” he said.

Rouhani said it would also be “a historic opportunity” for the West to show it doesn’t discriminate on international rules, which allow Iran to have a peaceful nuclear program to produce energy.

ZEINA KARAM, Associated Press

Associated Press Writer George Jahn contributed to this report.

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