Iran seeks 'expanded ties' with North Korea amid turmoil

Iran seeks 'expanded ties' with North Korea amid turmoil
Rouhani held talks with North Korea over widening cooperation in the face of renewed US sanctions, while the president suffered a setback after his employment minister resigned over economic turmoil
3 min read
08 August, 2018
Iran's President Rouhani and North Korea's FM Ri Yong-hu in Tehran [Getty]

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-hu met with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday on the second day of his official trip to Tehran.

According to Iranian state TV, Rouhani said at the meeting that Iran backs complete peace and security in the Korean peninsula.

He was quoted as saying that Tehran seeks comprehensive expansion of ties in all areas with Pyongyang.

According to the TV report, Rouhani also talked about the unilateral withdrawal of the United States from the nuclear accord and said that America's behaviour recently means it is now being recognised by the world as an unreliable and untrustworthy country.

He added that given the current circumstances, countries with friendly relations must stand by each other in international organisations.

Read more: While Iran braces for sanctions, what comes next?

The state TV report also quoted the North Korean Foreign Minister as saying that his country's strategic policy is widening ties with Iran and confronting unilateralism.

Ri described the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran as incorrect and in contradiction to international regulations.

Meanwhile, the Iranian employment minister Ali Rabiei was forced by lawmakers to resign on Wednesday.

Rabiei's ousting proves a victory for hard-liners opposed to the relative moderate amid a worsening economic crisis.

Parliament speaker Ali Larijani said 129 of 243 lawmakers present voted to oust Labor Minister Ali Rabiei. Critics accused him of mismanagement and blamed him for the country's recent economic problems, which have been exacerbated by the restoration of US sanctions lifted under the 2015 nuclear agreement.

Critics of Rabiei, in office since 2013, say he failed to properly manage the ministry's affiliated companies and that his mismanagement resulted in the creation of fewer jobs than expected.

Rabiei's supporters say he is not responsible for Iran's economic crisis and were able to fend off an earlier attempt to impeach him in March. Rouhani is expected to nominate a new candidate for the job within three months.

In addition to the employment minister, the Iranian cabinet includes three other economy-related ministers: Finance, Industry and Commerce, and Agriculture.

Hard-liners plan to question Rouhani in the coming weeks about the government's response to the recent crisis, which has seen the rial plummet to a record low against the dollar and sent unemployment to 12.5 percent following President Donald Trump's pullout from the nuclear deal in May.

Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said his country will not oppose third-country mediation between the US and Iran.

Oman hosted secret talks between the two countries in 2012 that ultimately led to the 2015 landmark nuclear deal with world powers. Zarif told the state-owned IRAN daily, however, there are currently no ongoing talks between the countries.

"Certainly regional countries like Oman are not willing to see" a crisis, Zarif said.

On Monday, Rouhani said Iran was ready to enter talks with the US if Washington compensated the country for past damages.

The US on Monday re-imposed sanctions that had been lifted as part of the nuclear deal. They target US dollar financial transactions, Iran's automotive sector and the purchase of commercial planes and metals, including gold. Even stronger sanctions targeting Iran's oil sector and central bank are to be re-imposed in early November.

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