Rouhani: Iranian 'Death to America' chants aimed at US policies, not American people

In preview of interview with CBS's "60 Minutes," Iranian president says his nation's people "are not looking for war with any country."

September 19, 2015 14:49
2 minute read.
us embassy iran

Iranian students hold pictures of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in front of an anti-US mural, painted on the wall of the former US Embassy in Tehran. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani appeared to try to quell American concerns over the recent signing of a nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic, where hardliners chant "death to America" and "death to Israel."

In a preview of an interview set to air Sunday on CBS's "60 Minutes," Rouhani said such slogans are not aimed at the American public, rather at Washington's policies "that have been against the national interest of the Iranian people."

Rouhani listed American support for Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi during Iran's 1979 revolution, and US backing of Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War as historical instances that Tehran holds against Washington.

"[The Iranian] people will not forget these things. We will not forget the past, however, at the same time, our gaze must be toward the future," he said in the first interview with a Western journalist since the nuclear deal was reached in July.

However, Rouhani stated that "the Iranian people are not looking for war with any country."

Long-time rivals Tehran and Washington have yet to normalize relations or open a dialogue on their contending policies in the war-torn region.

Despite the remarks made by Rouhani, who is viewed in Iran as a moderate, the Islamic Republic's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameni has upheld staunch opposition to renewing relations with the US in the wake of the nuclear deal.

Last week, Khamenei said Tehran will not negotiate with the United States on any issue after the landmark nuclear deal with world powers in July.

The comments appeared to contradict  Rouhani, who said the Islamic Republic was ready to hold talks with the United States on ways to resolve Syria's civil war.

"We negotiated with the US on the nuclear issue for specific reasons. (The Americans) behaved well in the talks, but we didn't and we won't allow negotiation with the Americans on other issues," Khamenei was quoted as saying on his official website.

While Israel adamantly opposes the nuclear deal, viewing it as a threat to its existence, Khamenei has continued to express belligerent rhetoric against the Jewish state.

"God willing there will be nothing left of the zionist regime in 25 years," Khamenei said. "Meanwhile, the heroic jihadi islamic spirit will not leave the zionists in peace for a second."

Reuters contributed to this report.

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