Sep 25 2013
Iran's new president held open the possibility of negotiations on his country's disputed nuclear programme and talks with the United States in his first speech on the world stage.
But Hassan Rouhani was also highly critical of how the US projected its power, in his address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York, warning that the threat or use of force in Syria "will only lead to further exacerbation of violence and crisis in the region".
Iran is one of the closest allies of the Syrian regime, which frequently blames terrorist groups for fomenting the civil war there.
Mr Rouhani welcomed Syria's acceptance of the international treaty to ban chemical weapons and said "access by extremist terrorist groups to such weapons is the greatest danger to the region".
He called his election over the summer a "wise choice of hope, rationality and moderation" and said every issue could be resolved through moderation, mutual respect and rejection of violence and extremism.
Mr Rouhani is considered a relative moderate amid the hardline clerics who control Iran. Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei controls all important matters of state, including the nuclear programme.
The United States and its Western allies accuse Iran of seeking to develop a nuclear weapon. But Iran insists its nuclear programme is purely peaceful - a point Mr Rouhani reiterated by saying: "This has been, and will always be, the objective of the Islamic Republic of Iran."
Nuclear negotiations between Iran and six world powers have been stalled for months, but Iran agreed to a new meeting on the sidelines of the General Assembly. "Nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction have no place in Iran's security and defence doctrine and contradict our fundamental religious and ethical convictions," he said. "Our national interests make it imperative that we remove any and all reasonable concerns about Iran's peaceful nuclear programme."
Mr Rouhani reiterated Iran's right under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty to enriching uranium - a process that can be used to produce fuel for both weapons or energy. On the conditions that world powers recognise that right and that all nations' nuclear programmes are for peace purposes only, he said Iran "is prepared to engage immediately in time-bound and result-oriented talks to build mutual confidence and removal of mutual uncertainties with full transparency".
Mr Rouhani said he listened to US president Barack Obama's speech to the General Assembly on Tuesday and was also open to talks with the United States "to manage differences". "To this end, equal footing, mutual respect, and the recognised principles of international law should govern the interactions," he said.