In his first address to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, newly-elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani insisted that Iran "poses no threat to the world and the region."
Rouhani arrived in New York with a clear mission to present the Islamic Republic in a more positive light. To that end, he has gone on a "charm offensive," giving interviews to American news outlet NBC and writing an editorial for the Washington Post.
Speaking to the United Nations General Assembly just hours after US President Barack Obama addressed the annual gathering of world leaders, the Iranian president continued sending the same messages he did in recent weeks, stressing that Iran is "a harbor for peace" and that the Iranian threat is "an imaginary threat," an excuse to justify sanctions.
He expressed hope that Obama would not be swayed by "war-mongering pressure groups" at home in dealing with the Iranian nuclear dispute and called for a consistent voice from Washington on the issue.
Rouhani said he was prepared to engage in "time-bound and results-oriented" nuclear talks and did not seek to increase tensions with the United States.
He reiterated that nuclear weapons "have no place in Iran's security and defense doctrine," saying it contradicts Islam and Iran's ethical convictions.
"Iran seeks to solve problems, not create them," he said.
He also blasted the international sanctions imposed on his country in an attempt to curb Tehran's nuclear program, comparing them to the widely criticized punitive measures against Iraq while the late Saddam Hussein was in power.
"These sanctions are violent, pure and simple," he said, adding these sanctions were "inhumane" and "against peace." He went on to say that normal people, not political elites, ended up suffering because of them. "The negative impact is not nearly limited to the intended victims of sanctions."
Addressing the upheaval in ally country Syria, Rouhani stressed that the only solution to the Syrian crisis is that of peace, and warned that the use of force in Syria, such as that suggested by the US in response to reports of the Assad regime's use of poison gas on civilians, would only lead to further exacerbation of violence.
The Iranian president also cautioned against allowing terrorist groups access to weapons of mass destruction in Syria, saying it poses the greatest danger to the region.
He condemned the use of chemical weapons in Syria and called for a quick end to the killing of innocent people.
The Iranian president also addressed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, decrying the "structural violence," "crimes," and "institutionalize aggression" against the Palestinians.
Before Rouhani took the podium, Reuters quoted an Obama administration official as saying that a potential encounter at the United Nations on Tuesday between US President Barack Obama and the Iranian president proved too complicated, and will therefore not take place.
The Iranians were not ready to have an encounter at the presidential level, the official said.
The White House was open to a meeting between Obama and Rouhani in New York, but the Iranians indicated it was too complicated, the official said.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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