Iranian Jews urge Obama to seize on Rouhani overtures

AFP — Oct 13, 2013

Tehran’s Jewish community has urged US President Barack Obama to seize an “unrepeatable” opportunity to mend fences with Iran now that a reputed moderate holds the Islamic republic’s presidency.

The call was made in an open letter from the head of Tehran’s Jewish community, Homayoun Sameyah Najaf Abady, a copy of which was sent to AFP.

“If the US and the international community do not make the best of this golden and perhaps unrepeatable opportunity, then it will be in the benefit of those who are against the normalisation of ties between Iran and the US,” Sameyah wrote.

“It would also make it easy for pessimists to doubt the good intentions of the US,” he added.

His letter comes after Iran’s new President Hassan Rouhani’s trip to New York for the UN General Assembly last month, when he made a number of diplomatic gestures towards the West.

The visit was capped by an historic phone conversation with Obama, the first such contact since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Sameyah also played down controversial comments by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on basic freedoms in Iran.

“We, the Iranian Jews, as an Iranian religious minority, participated in the elections and elected our popular president freely,” he said.

He added that the small Jewish community has freedom of choice in “wearing jeans and listening to music,” referring to Netanyahu’s remarks.

Rouhani took office in August, riding on a campaign of moderation and with pledges to rebuild Iran’s standing in the international community and to expand civil freedoms.

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