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Iran president meets with religious scholars in India trip

February 15, 2018

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, center,meets with Muslims leaders and scholars in Hyderabad, India, Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018. Rouhani arrived in the city Thursday to begin his official visit to India. (AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A.)

HYDERABAD, India (AP) — Iran’s president said on Thursday that his country was ready to help promote dialogue as a way to end bloodshed in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

Hassan Rouhani made the comments to a group of Muslim religious scholars in the in southern Indian city of Hyderabad shortly after his arrival for a three-day India visit.

Rouhani will meet Saturday with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi.

Rouhani accused western countries of sowing discord among different sects of Muslims.

He called for unity between the Sunni and Shia sects of Muslims.

“The Shias, Sunnis and people of other ethnicities coexisted peacefully in Iraq and Syria for centuries until the West created a discord there,” Rouhani said.

Rouhani’s visit comes as U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to scuttle an international deal reached with Iran in 2015 over its nuclear program that ended economic sanctions imposed on the country.

This poses a challenge for India, which is helping Iran develop the Chabahar Port for trade with Afghanistan.

In 2016, India, Afghanistan, and Iran decided to establish a trade route for land-locked Afghanistan and Central Asian countries. India committed up to $500 million for the development of the Chahabar Port along with associated roads and rail lines.

India shipped its first consignment of wheat to Afghanistan by sea through the Chahbahar Port in October last year.

India’s bilateral trade with Iran in 2017-18 was around $12.89 billion, with India importing mainly crude oil and exporting commodities.

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