Iran's Zarif denies warning U.S. of possible Rouhani demise

Iran's foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif gestures during an open debate at the 51st Munich Security Conference at the 'Bayerischer Hof' hotel in Munich February 8, 2015. REUTERS/Michael Dalder
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MUNICH (Reuters) - Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif denied on Sunday a media report that he had told the United States during nuclear talks that President Hassan Rouhani's political clout would be heavily damaged if negotiations failed. A Reuters report on Saturday, quoting three senior Iranian officials who asked not to be identified, said Zarif had warned the United States and other Western powers during ongoing nuclear talks that a failure to reach a deal would likely hasten the political demise of Rouhani. "I want to correct a very wrong report by Reuters," Zarif told a security conference in Munich. "Those that talked to me in the past three days know that was not a subject of our negotiation," he said, adding: "I did not." Reuters said it stands by its reporting. Zarif said that if Iran and major world powers, including the United States, Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China, failed to reach an agreement it would not be Iran's fault. He said the negotiations had Rouhani's support. "I believe the entire Iranian population understands that this government, that Dr Rouhani, his administration, and the government in its entirety, supported our efforts in the negotiations," said Zarif. "Everybody has taken every necessary measure to make sure we succeed. All Iranians know this. If we fail, and I hope we won't, they (Iranians) will not consider us responsible for that failure. They will consider attempts (to ask) too much from Iran as a reason for failure." The Reuters report quoted the three senior Iranian officials as saying a breakdown in talks would empower Iran's conservative hardliners. The 12-year-old stand-off has reached a crucial phase, with a March deadline to reach a political agreement ahead of a final settlement by June 30. (Reporting by Lesley Wroughton in Munich; Additional reporting by Louis Charbonneau in New York; Editing by Stephen Brown,Mark Heinrich and Frances Kerry)

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