On his first official visit to Europe, Rouhani also took a swipe
at regional arch rival Saudi Arabia, saying its military campaign in
neighboring Yemen was a failure and a frustration.
Rouhani is midway through a four-day trip to Italy and France,
looking to burnish his country's international credentials following
the signing last year of a nuclear accord with world powers and the
lifting of financial sanctions.
While EU firms are lining up to sign lucrative business deals, the
United States is keeping some of its sanctions in place, accusing
Tehran of funding what it considers to be terror groups, and ties
between the two nations remain terse.
"It's possible that Iran and the United States might have friendly
relations. But the key to that is in Washington's hands, not
Tehran's," Rouhani told a news conference, saying he would be happy
to see U.S. businessmen in Iran.
"I would like to see the Americans set aside their hostility and
chose another way, but inside the U.S. there are some problems,
there is no unified voice," he said, noting that "the Zionist lobby"
was "very influential".
He also rejected accusations that Iran was funding terror
organizations. "It is clear that Iran is a country opposed to
terrorism and a country that fights terrorism," he said.
The United States is the dominant foreign power in the Middle East,
sporting close ties with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel, and is
militarily involved in both Iraq and Syria, where it is battling
Sunni jihadist group, Islamic State.
"The Americans know very well that when it comes to important
regional issues they cannot achieve anything without Iran's
influence or say," Rouhani said, speaking through a translator.
[to top of second column]
Shi'ite Muslim Iran is the closest backer of Syrian President Bashar
al-Assad, while Western countries support his mainly Sunni Muslim
opponents. However, Tehran and the West are united in their
opposition to Islamic State.
Adding to tensions in the region is the recent deterioration in
relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Riyadh broke off diplomatic
ties with Tehran this month in an escalating row over the Saudi
execution of a Shi'ite Muslim cleric.
Rouhani said Saudi was acting out of frustration, branding its
10-month military campaign in Yemen against the Houthi militia, who
are allied to Iran, as a flop.
"It is angry because of its failures," he said. "Saudi Arabia has
been bombing the impoverished people of Yemen for 10 months and has
not achieved anything. It has not had any victory and is hated more
than ever by the Yemeni people."
(Additional reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin, Sam Wilkin and
Philip Pullella; Editing by Louise Ireland)
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