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Are Iran-Saudi Arabia Relations About To Improve?

BEIRUT — Iran's ambassador in Lebanon said he was confident the Islamic Republic would soon improve ties with longtime regional rival Saudi Arabia.

Speaking at a Beirut conference to mark the 35th anniversary of Iran's 1979 revolution, Ambassador Ghazanfar Roknabadi acknowledged that Iran's calls for better ties had yet to receive "echoes" from Riyadh, but "a positive response should not be long in coming, already there are changes," Lebanon's L'Orient le Jour reported.

Roknabadi said a slated visit by U.S. President Barack Obama to Riyadh could accelerate the warming of ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The two countries have had frosty relations since the 1979 Islamic revolution and are bitterly divided over the fate of Syria, with Tehran supporting the regime of Bashar al-Assad, and Riyadh backing certain rebel forces.

Roknabadi said Iran did not seek to "impose anything either in Lebanon or Syria." But, he added, if peace is to be achieved, Saudi Arabia "has to stop arming the oppostion ... especially" the Salafists and "stop sending fighters" to Syria.

Asked if Iran would ever drop its support for President Assad or Lebanon's Hezbollah militia, the diplomat said "it is the United States that has a habit of dropping its allies, not the Islamic Republic. Where has it done this in 35 years?"

If Iran firmly backs Assad he said, it was because he was elected and "a great part of his people continues to back him ... Imagine Syria without ... Assad. In the present context it would be a catastrophe."

A day before Iranian deputy-foreign minister Amir Abdollahiansaid that Saudi Arabia had been slow to respond to Iran's overtures, but that Tehran maintained a "positive view" of ties with the kingdom. The conservative Fars news agency reported Abdollahian as telling the broadcaster al-Mayadeen that Iran also had good relations with the Hamas administration in Gaza, but that Hamas must "reconsider" its hostile position to the Assad regime in Syria.

-Ahmad Shayegan

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Indigenous Women Of Ecuador Set Example For Sustainable Agriculture

In southern Ecuador, a women-led agricultural program offers valuable lessons on sustainable farming methods, but also how to end violence.

Photo of women walking in Ecuador

Women walking in Guangaje Ecuador

Camila Albuja

SARAGURO — Here in this corner of southern Ecuador, life seems to be like a mandala — everything is cleverly used in this ancestral system of circular production. But the women of Saraguro had to fight and resist to make their way of life, protecting the local water and the seeds. When weaving, the women share and take care of each other, also weaving a sense of community.

With the wrinkled tips of her fingers, Mercedes Quizhpe, an indigenous woman from the Kichwa Saraguro people, washes one by one the freshly harvested vegetables from her garden. Standing on a small bench, with her hands plunged into the strong torrent of icy water and the bone-chilling early morning breeze, she checks that each one of her vegetables is ready for fair day. Her actions hold a life of historical resistance, one that prioritizes the care of life through the defense of territory and food sovereignty.

Mercedes' way of life is also one that holds many potential lessons for how to do agriculture and tourism better.

In the province of Loja, work begins before sunrise. At 5:00 a.m., the barking of dogs, the guardians of each house, starts. There is that characteristic smell of damp earth from the morning dew. Sheep bah uninterruptedly through the day. With all this life around, the crowing of early-rising roosters doesn't sound so lonely.

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