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Iran’s Rouhani: US ties better but “still a long road to travel”

“Conditions are ripe for that,” the Iranian president said.

Western officials have suggested that implementation of the deal was more likely next year.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (L) and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif arrive for a plenary meeting of the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit 2015 at United Nations headquarters in Manhattan, New York, September 25, 2015.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (L) and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif arrive for a plenary meeting of the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit 2015 at United Nations headquarters in Manhattan, New York, September 25, 2015.

Rouhani also referred to the detention of Americans in Iran and Iranians in the United States. Iran is holding several Americans, including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, who has dual U.S. and Iranian citizenship.

Rouhani said both countries should do what they could to move forward to freeing prisoners held by each other. He added that the issue was “personally important to me,” though he said his constitutional powers were limited on the matter.

“Both governments have to help to move these legal files forward,” he said.

Iranian officials have said they want freedom for Iranians held in the United States, some of whom have been jailed on charges of circumventing U.S. sanctions on Tehran.

Rouhani complained about some of the statements made by U.S. lawmakers critical of the nuclear deal, saying they contained “extremely bitter extremist judgments” and were met with astonishment in Iran.

“It was as if they were on another planet,” he said. “They did not seem to know where Iran was.”

Rouhani also touched on the tragedy in Saudi Arabia, echoing other Iranian officials’ comments that Saudi authorities bore some blame for a crush that killed over 700 people at the haj pilgrimage in the annual event’s worst disaster in 25 years.

He said the tragedy may be a result of the Saudis transferring experienced troops to Yemen to fight against Iranian-backed Houthi fighters, a military campaign that Tehran has repeatedly criticized.