Iran’s President Hassan Rohani has said his country does not seek war with any other nation, insisting that it would never build nuclear weapons.
In an interview with the US network NBC News he said he had full authority to negotiate a nuclear deal with the West.
Rohani criticised Israel for questioning his government’s intentions towards nuclear arms, but added “we seek peace and friendship among the nations of the region”.
Iran remains under UN and Western sanctions over a nuclear programme Tehran insists is peaceful but which the West suspects is designed to build weapons.
Dozens of Iranian economists, lawyers and journalists have written that the sanctions are having a disastrous humanitarian effect, aggravating international tensions and doing nothing for peace.
Rohani’s interview is being seen as another move aimed at improving relations with the West.
Since his election in June his tone has shifted dramatically from the belligerent rhetoric of his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
This week Iran released from detention the prominent human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and reportedly freed ten other political prisoners.
Arrested three years ago and jailed for six years for acting against national security, she now says she plans to continue fighting for a proper judicial system.
All these moves come days before President Rohani is due to appear at the UN in New York.
Reports say the Obama administration is planning high-level meetings with Iranian officials.
The Israeli embassy in Washington posted on social media that the NBC interview was part of Rohani’s “charm offensive”.