Iranian President Hassan Rouhani urged Western countries on Monday to engage in dialogue with the Islamic Republic over its nuclear program, Iranian news agency Fars reported.
Rouhani was at Mehrabad airport on his way to New York to attend the UN General Assembly meeting, where he is scheduled to speak later this week.
He condemned the sanctions currently imposed on his country in an attempt to curb Tehran's uranium enrichment, saying the path of sanctions is an "illegal and unacceptable path" that will not succeed.
Instead, Rouhani urges the West to "choose the path of interaction, talks and understanding based on common interests."
"The Iranian nation is not after [weapons of mass destruction] and has, in fact, been a victim of such weapons," Rouhani added.
On his official Twitter feed, Rouhani said he was "ready for constructive engagement [with the] world to show [the] real image of [the] great Iranian nation."
A moderate conservative elected in June, Rouhani was speaking shortly
before a five-day trip Western powers hope will shed light on a nuclear
program they fear could yield nuclear arms. Iran has said it is pursuing
peaceful ends, but recent, sometimes rancorous talks have served only
to deepen suspicion.
"Unfortunately in recent years the face of Iran, a great and civilized nation, has been presented in another way," Rouhani
said, according to comments published on his official website.
"I and my colleagues will take the opportunity to present the
true face of Iran as a cultured and peace-loving country."
Rouhani did not make clear who he blames for any distortion of Iran's image. But the comments suggest he is intent on distancing himself from the controversial, outspoken approach to the West adopted by predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The United States and its allies have imposed increasing economic sanctions on Iran in recent years, partly a response to what the West regards as Tehran's failure to open its nuclear program to international inspection. Ahmadinejad had also raised concern with comments on the Holocaust and homosexuality.
But Rouhani, a former nuclear negotiator under reformist president Mohammad Khatami, also targeted the West over sanctions he said had resulted in suffering.
"On this trip, I will try to deliver the voice of the oppressed people of Iran to the world and we should say that sanctions are an illegal and unacceptable path," he told journalists before leaving, his official website reported.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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