(Reuters) - Iran’s parliament strongly endorsed President Hassan Rouhani’s diplomatic bid to dispel mistrust at the United Nations last week during a visit which ended with an historic phone call with President Barack Obama, Iranian media said.
The backing from the assembly, controlled by political factions deeply loyal to Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is a further sign that Rouhani has the support of the Iranian establishment, though there are some rumblings from hardliners.
Khamenei, the most powerful figure in Iran, has yet to publicly comment on Rouhani’s trip.
Rouhani briefed parliamentarians on his trip, including discussions on Iran’s nuclear dispute with the West and regional relations, the student news agency ISNA said late on Tuesday.
A group of 230 parliamentarians, out of the total of 290, signed a statement expressing their support of Rouhani for presenting the image of a “powerful and peace-seeking Iran which seeks talks and interaction for the settlement of regional and international issues”, Fars news agency said.
While Rouhani’s visit to New York has boosted hopes of a diplomatic breakthrough in talks to resolve the 10-year-old dispute over Iran’s nuclear program, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed it on Tuesday as a ruse concocted by a “wolf in sheep’s clothing”.
The United States, Israel and other countries accuse Iran of using its nuclear program as a veil for efforts to try to develop the capability to produce weapons. Iran says the program is for peaceful energy purposes only.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Netanyahu and “the Zionist lobby” were trying to hinder negotiations.
“We will not let Netanyahu determine the future of our talks,” Zarif wrote on his Facebook page.
The next round of nuclear talks between Iran and six world powers is set to take place in Geneva in two weeks.
Rouhani told the U.N. General Assembly last week that Iran was willing to engage immediately in “time-bound” talks on the nuclear issue.
Inside Iran, even as conservatives fall in line behind Rouhani who secured a landslide election win in June with promises of moderation in foreign policy, there were signs that some feared the president was going too fast, too soon.
Parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani praised Rouhani’s address to the U.N. General Assembly, ISNA said. But Larijani, a champion of the conservative establishment, made no specific mention of Rouhani’s phone call with Obama.
The head of the powerful Revolutionary Guards said on Monday the call had been premature, a signal of unease and the possible beginning of resistance to the relative moderate Rouhani from Iranian hardliners.
The Guards chief and other hardliners have argued the United States must now take concrete steps such as easing the stringent sanctions that have driven inflation above 40 percent and led to a sharp fall in the value of the Iranian rial.
“Either America takes a big step by breaking up sanctions, and that is the result of the success of the heroic flexibility of the supreme leader, or it continues with its unreasonable and illogical claims which will make apparent American lies,” Fars quoted hardline member of parliament Alireza Zakani as saying.
Others have presented Obama’s statement that the United States was not seeking ’regime change’ in Iran as a sign of the strength of the Islamic Republic.
“They have understood this truth that the Islamic Republic is unbreakable and it is better to accept interaction based on appropriate and just rules, instead of confrontation,” Fars quoted deputy Revolutionary Guards commander Hossein Salami as saying.
(Reporting by Marcus George; Writing by Jon Hemming; Editing by Giles Elgood)