“Iran seeks constructive engagement with other countries based on mutual respect and common interest, and within the same framework does not seek to increase tensions with the United States,” Rouhani said in a speech to a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, Bloomberg reported.
The statements were the latest overtures from Rouhani indicating that the newly elected leader is interested in a possible rapprochement with the United States, which has not had formal diplomatic relations with Iran since 1979.
US President Barack Obama signaled in a speech to the UN earlier Tuesday that Washington is also interested in using diplomacy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
Iran has long said its nuclear program is peaceful and focused exclusively on energy, and Rouhani said Tuesday that nuclear weapons “have no place in Iran's security and defense doctrine.”
Iran “poses absolutely no threat to the world or the region,” he said, Bloomberg reported. “Let me say loud and clear that peace is within reach.”
Rouhani also expressed hope that the Obama administration would not be influenced by “warmongering pressure groups” in the United States when dealing with Iran over its nuclear program, Reuters reported.
He also sharply criticized international sanctions against Iran, likening them to sanctions placed on Iraq under the late dictator Saddam Hussein, Reuters said.
“These sanctions are violent, pure and simple,” Reuters quoted him as saying. " … The negative impact is not nearly limited to the intended victims of sanctions.”
Obama has tasked Secretary of State John Kerry with leading Washington’s diplomatic efforts in dealing with Iran’s nuclear program.
US officials had approached Iranian counterparts about arranging a brief discussion between Obama and Rouhani on the margins of the UN General Assembly this week, a senior Obama administration official said Tuesday.
The Iranians, however, said such a meeting would have been “too complicated” for Rouhani due to considerations back home, the official said.