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Iranian President Calls U.S. Relations a ‘Curvy Road’

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran's newly re-elected President Hassan Rouhani on Monday called relations with the United States "a curvy road," saying he hoped the Trump administration will "settle down" enough for his nation to better understand it.

Rouhani also criticized Saudi Arabia after it just hosted President Donald Trump's first foreign trip, saying that the kingdom "has never seen a ballot box" while Iran just hosted a successful presidential election in which over 40 million people voted.

"The Americans do not know our region, that's what the catch is," Rouhani said in response to a question from The Associated Press. "Those who provide consultations or advice to the Americans, unfortunately, they are the rulers who either push America awry or with money, they just buy some people in America."

Image: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani gestures during a televised speech after his election victory in Tehran
Newly re-elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani gestures during a televised speech after his election victory in Tehran, Iran on Saturday. Stringer / EPA

During a bilateral meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump criticized the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran which sought to dial back Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for easing sanctions against Iran. Trump said it was "terrible" for the U.S. to make the deal.

"Iran should be very grateful to the United States. Iran negotiated a fantastic deal with the previous administration..it is unbelievable from my standpoint," Trump said, adding "Instead of saying thank you to the United States, they now feel emboldened.… it was a terrible, terrible thing for the United States to enter that deal. And believe me, Iran will never have a nuclear weapon that I can tell you.”

Rouhani decisively won a presidential election on Friday, securing another four-year term. Observers say the vote served as a referendum on Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, as well as a vote of confidence that his government will be able to help the country's sputtering economy. Trump has threatened to try to renegotiate the deal.

Rouhani said that Iranians are "waiting for this government to become stable intellectually" and that "hopefully, things will settle down ... so we could pass more accurate judgments."

"Unfortunately, Americans have always made mistakes in our region," Rouhani said. "When they attacked Afghanistan (and) Iraq, when they made sanctions against Iran. In Syria, they made mistakes, and also in Yemen."

Rouhani further criticized the Saudi summit that Trump attended on Sunday, describing it as a "show-off" that "will not have any political and practical values."

Iran's Pres. Rouhani Wins Re-Election in a Landslide 1:52

"The issue of terrorism cannot be solved through giving money to superpowers," Rouhani said.

Rouhani made a point to stress that Trump's visit came amid Iran's presidential election, saying that such elections "are not in their (Saudis') dictionary."

"I hope that the day will come that Saudi Arabia will adopt this path," he said. "They should have polling stations in place for the people and let the rulers not be on a hereditary basis. They should be picked by the people."

The Sunni kingdom and Shiite power Iran haven't had diplomatic relations since early 2016. That's when Saudi Arabia executed a prominent Shiite cleric and protesters in Iran attacked two of the kingdom's diplomatic posts. Saudi Arabia immediately cut diplomatic ties and other Sunni Arab countries in the Gulf have taken a harder line on Iran since.

Trump repeatedly has criticized Iran in speeches on his first foreign trip. In Israel on Monday, he warned of "the threat posed by Iran" through the possibility of it acquiring nuclear weapons and its support of militant groups.

Also Monday, the foreign ministers of France and Germany said their countries want to work with Iran following Rouhani's re-election but are pressing Tehran to keep to the nuclear deal and to help deescalate Mideast conflicts.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said France is convinced that Iran under Rouhani will have "an important role in the pacification" of the region. "We expect Iran to behave responsibly ... not to support terror," said his German counterpart Sigmar Gabriel.

At the Tehran press conference, Rouhani also defended Iran's ballistic missile program, something heavily criticized by Trump's new administration. The Trump administration in February sanctioned more than two dozen people and companies in retaliation for a ballistic missile test, warning it had put the Islamic Republic "on notice."

"The U.S. leaders should know that whenever we need a missile test because of a technical aspect, we will test," he said. "We will not wait for them and their permission."

Rouhani added: "Our missiles are for peace, not for attack."