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Tillerson Says U.S. Seeking To Support 'Modern Voices' Inside Iran

Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj greets U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in New Delhi on October 25.

During a visit to India, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said that U.S. sanctions against Iran are aimed at Tehran's "malign behaviors" and are meant to help the Iranian people take back control of their government.

At the same time, Tillerson reassured India that the United States would not block "legitimate" business activities with Iran by India or other allies. This statement was in reference to India's investment of hundreds of millions of dollars in the Iranian port of Chabahar.

He was speaking at a press conference in New Delhi after talks with Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, on October 25.

The U.S. Secretary of State named Iran's ballistic missile program and "their export of arms to terrorist organizations" as examples of Tehran's "destabilizing activities".

"Our fight is not with the Iranian people. Our disagreements are with the revolutionary regime", Tillerson said.

"We are taking actions to impose sanctions on the regime and in particular the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. It is our objective to deny financing capacity and to disrupt the activities related to these malign behaviors."

Tillerson's references to the Iranian people taking back control of their government, shows a new U.S. emphasis at eventual regime change, by "support for modern voices inside of Iran".

"We know there are strong feelings and values inside of Iran that we want to promote in terms of one day the Iranian people being able to retake control of their government", he said, adding, "They live under this repressive revolutionary regime and we do not want to harm the Iranian people. Our fight is not with the Iranian people."

Speaking about Pakistan, Tillerson expressed concern that extremist groups pose a threat to the "stability and security" of the Pakistani government.

"This could lead to a threat to Pakistan's own stability," Tillerson told journalist.

"It is not in anyone's interests that the government of Pakistan be destabilized," he added.

The secretary of state also thanked Swaraj for standing "shoulder to shoulder" with the United States in combating extremism in the region.

Tillerson is holding talks with Indian leaders as the two countries look to deepen relations and counter China's growing clout.

Tillerson said last week that Washington wants to "dramatically deepen" cooperation with Pakistan’s archrival India as it seeks to promote a "free and open" region led by prosperous democracies.

With reporting by AP, AFP, Reuters, and dpa