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Iranian president criticises US after Donald Trump calls for country's isolation

Newly re-elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has hit out at the US and its ally Saudi Arabia, a day after Donald Trump used his first foreign trip to the kingdom to call for further isolation of Iran.

The 68-year-old cleric, a political moderate within Iran who secured a resounding victory over a hard-line opponent, called relations with the United States "a curvy road" even as he touted the 2015 nuclear accord Iran secured with the Obama administration and other world powers as a "win-win" agreement.

He was less flattering in his assessment of the Trump administration so far.

Mr 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".

"The Americans do not know our region, that's what the catch is," Mr Rouhani said.

"Unfortunately, Americans have always made mistakes in our region.

"When they attacked Afghanistan (and) Iraq, when they made sanctions against Iran.

"In Syria, they made mistakes, and also in Yemen."

Mr Rouhani also criticised Saudi Arabia, Tehran's main regional rival, just hours after Mr Trump departed the country bound for Israel, where he arrived on Monday.

He said the Sunni-ruled kingdom "has never seen a ballot box", a pointed dig in the wake of Iran's presidential election Friday that drew long lines as over 40 million people voted.

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

"The issue of terrorism cannot be solved through giving money to superpowers," Mr Rouhani said, adding that his nation would "uproot terrorism" and bring stability to the region.

Iranian-backed forces have been fighting Islamic State militants in Iraq and support the government of President Bashar Assad in its battle against Sunni fighters in Syria.

"Who can claim that stability of the region can be restored without Iran?" he said.

Mr Rouhani made a point to stress that Mr 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."

Unlike Saudi Arabia, which occasionally holds elections for municipal councils, Iran regularly holds elections for president, parliament and other posts.

The elections remain tightly controlled, however, and many candidates are excluded during a pre-election vetting process.

Ultimate power in Iran rests not with the president but with the supreme leader, who is chosen by a clerical panel and has the final say over all matters of state.

The Sunni kingdom and Shiite power Iran have not had diplomatic relations since early 2016, 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.

AP

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