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Iran’s Zarif on why Tehran won’t team up with U.S. on Islamic State group

Watch an excerpt of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s interview airing in full on Friday.

U.S. efforts to garner regional support for fighting Islamic State militants, including an all-out effort this week by Secretary of State John Kerry, has hit a roadblock in Iran. It’s partly because the leadership isn’t convinced the U.S. government “was serious,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told the PBS NewsHour’s chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner on Friday.

When Warner asked why Iranian President Hassan Rouhani rebuffed overtures from the Obama administration to cooperate, Zarif said, “Because we were not convinced that the United States government was serious.”

He went on to criticize U.S. plans — approved this week by Congress — to finance moderate Syrian rebels in the fight against the extremists. The rebels are engaged in a three-year civil war against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who Zarif says is working to defeat the Islamic State militants.

Zarif contended that the very forces the U.S. is seeking to aid include elements of the Islamic State group, along with other al-Qaida-linked fighters.

“If you undermine the central government in Syria — that would enable the IS terrorists to engage more effectively and to gain even more territory,” he said. “We see this as basically contradiction in terms of trying to defeat ISIS (another name for the Islamic State group) but at the same time funding those who are trying to undermine the very government that is withstanding ISIS terrorists.”

The full interview with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif aired on Friday’s PBS NewsHour:

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