Rouhani is considered a relative moderate in Iran's hard-line clerical regime. He campaigned on a promise to seek relief from punishing U.S. and Western sanctions that have slashed Iran's vital oil exports by more than half in the past two years, sent inflation soaring and severely undercut the value of its currency.
Turning to the Syria, Rouhani addressed U.S. allegations that the Iranian-allied regime was behind a chemical weapons attack near Damascus last month. He said his country seeks peace and stability and the elimination of weapons of mass destruction in the entire region.
Asked whether President Barack Obama had looked weak by backing off a military strike on the Syrian regime, Rouhani responded: "We consider war a weakness. Any government that decides on war, we consider a weakness. And any government that decides on peace, we look on it with respect for peace."
Rouhani also said he received a "positive and constructive" letter from Obama congratulating him on his election in June. In it, he said Obama raised some issues the U.S. president was concerned about and that he had responded to the points Obama raised.
"From my point of view, the tone of the letter was positive and constructive," Rouhani said. "It could be subtle and tiny steps for a very important future."
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday there were no current plans for Obama to meet Rouhani at the U.N. General Assembly.