SHAFAQNA – David Cameron will take the historic step of meeting Iran’s president as he reaches out to the pariah state in an attempt to secure support in the increasingly desperate battle against Islamic State militants. In the latest sign that Iran is being brought back into the diplomatic fold after decades of isolation, the prime minister will speak with President Rouhani during a crucial United Nations summit in New York, which begins today. Mr Cameron could pledge to commit the RAF to airstrikes on Islamic State (Isis) targets in Iraq when he addresses the UN general assembly tomorrow. It will be the first time a British leader has held face-to-face talks with an Iranian president since the country’s revolution in 1979. President Hollande of France is also to meet Mr Rouhani at the summit. Hopes of a diplomatic breakthrough on Isis were dealt a blow yesterday when the United States rejected an offer from Iran to help to defeat the jihadist group in Iraq and Syria in return for more flexibility from the West over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. “The US will not be in the position of trading aspects of Iran’s nuclear programme to secure commitments to take on [Isis],” Josh Earnest, a White House spokesman, said.
Isis issued a chilling call yesterday for Muslims to bring terror to the streets of western countries. Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, a spokesman for the group, told supporters to poison, stab and bludgeon western “disbelievers”. “If you can kill a disbelieving American or European… including the citizens of the countries that entered into a coalition against Islamic State, then rely upon Allah, and kill him,” he said. “Smash his head with a rock, or slaughter him with a knife, or run him over with your car, or throw him down from a high place, or choke him, or poison him.” During the past month, the group has beheaded two US journalists and a British aid worker, disseminating the videos online as a threat to the West. More than 10,000 civilians and Iraqi soldiers have been butchered. Ministers have repeatedly indicated that Britain will sanction airstrikes on Isis, a move that would trigger a recall of parliament. There was increasing speculation last night that parliament will be recalled this week. No 10 is keen to gain Iranian involvement in any efforts to tackle Isis. Iran wields huge influence over the new Iraqi government and over Bashar Assad’s Syrian regime. Mr Cameron has been slowly re-establishing diplomatic links with Iran after the election of the more moderate Mr Rouhani. Philip Hammond, the foreign secretary, held his first meeting with Javad Zarif, his Iranian counterpart, in New York yesterday. The men discussed Iran’s nuclear programme and bilateral relations.
No 10 sources said that Mr Cameron’s meeting with Mr Rouhani was not a sign that there would be any let-up in pressure on Iran over its nuclear programme and its support for President Assad. Downing Street has ruled out working with Syria against Isis.
“We are under no illusion about the dangers of Iran’s nuclear programme and our approach on that is not changing,” a source said. “However, if Iran is willing to join the international community to defeat [Isis], then we will work with them on that, but will be clear that you cannot take one approach in Baghdad and another in Damascus.”
Mr Cameron will also hold talks with President al-Sisi of Egypt today.