UNITED NATIONS -- Iran's president Thursday condemned "violence and extremism" as a rapidly spreading disease that can only be cured by the countries of the Middle East region and not by outside forces.
Hassan Rouhani, speaking at the UN General Assembly for the second time as president, also lamented the severe sanctions under which Iran operates as talks between his country, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council -- the United States, Russia, France, Great Britain and China -- and Germany, slow to a crawl. He said he hopes a deal can be reached to lift the sanctions while reiterating that Iran's nuclear ambitions have no military component.
Claiming Iran is a stable country enjoying calm while others in the Middle East are "burning in fire of extremism and radicalism," he said Iran stands ready to play a role in stamping out terrorism.
"I deeply regret to say that terrorism has become globalized: From New York to Mosul, from Damascus to Baghdad, from the easternmost to the westernmost parts of the world, from al-Qaida to Daesh," he said.
"The extremists of the world have found each other and have put out the call: 'Extremists of the world unite.' But are we united against the extremists?"The United States considers Iran itself a supporter of terrorism because it backs two militant groups: Hezbollah, based in Lebanon, and Hamas, a Palestinian group based in Gaza.
Rouhani's address was decidedly more strident this year than last, when he struck a more conciliatory tone as the world speculated whether his administration would usher in a thaw in relations with the United States.
The nations have had strained relations since the fall of the U.S.-backed shah during the Iranian Revolution of 1979.
While Rouhani spoke with President Barack Obama by telephone last year, and his foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, met with Secretary of State John Kerry during the General Assembly last year and this year, there are no plans for Obama and Rouhani to talk or share a handshake this year.Focusing his remarks on the specter of global terrorism, which has dominated the General Assembly agenda and the General Debate this year, Rouhani said the causes of terrorism are poverty, unemployment, discrimination, humiliation and injustice. He called yesterday's colonialism and racism the genesis of today's anti-Westernism.
In a nutshell, he said Western meddling created the extremism the West and others now hope to abolish, though he declined to single out nations by name.
"The strategic blunders of the West in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Caucuses have turned these parts of the world into a haven for terrorists and extremists," he said.He decried a link he says has been made between Islam and terrorists who invoke the religion in their campaigns.
"The pain is made greater when these terrorists spill blood in the name of religion and behead in the name of Islam," he said. "They seek to keep hidden this incontrovertible truth of history that on the basis of the teachings of all divine prophets, from Abraham and Moses and Jesus to Mohammed, taking the life of a single innocent life is akin to killing the whole humanity."
He went on, "I am astonished that these murderous groups call themselves Islamic. What is more astonishing is that the Western media, in line with them, repeats this false claim, which provokes the hatred of all Muslims."
He said Iran stands ready to help resolve the region's crises.
"We support any measure to promote cooperation between Islamic nations to combat extremism, threats, and aggression, and in this connection, are prepared to play our permanent constructive and positive role," he said.
"Obviously, since the pain is better known by the countries in the region, better they can form a coalition, and accept to shoulder the responsibility of leadership to counter violence and terrorism," Rouhani said. "And if other nations wish to take action against terrorism, they must come to their support."