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Rouhani Criticizes Trump's Saudi Summit, Says Vote Shows Iranians Want Engagement

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a press conference in Tehran on May 22.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has criticized a summit of Muslim countries that was attended by U.S. President Donald Trump, calling the meeting in Saudi Arabia a "a show with no meaning."

Rouhani spoke at a news conference on May 22, three days after winning a second term in an election he said showed that Iranians favor "moderation" and engagement with the world.

Trump addressed dozens of leaders of Muslim states in Riyadh on May 21, urging leaders to fight against Islamic extremism and calling for the isolation of Iran, which he accused of fueling "the fires of sectarian conflict and terror."

"The gathering in Saudi Arabia was just a show with no practical or political value of any kind," Rouhani said.

Rouhani's remarks came as Trump trained more criticism on Iran in a visit to Israel on May 22, saying that Tehran must stop supporting "terrorists and militia" and must never acquire nuclear weapons.

Rouhani said stability in the Middle East without Iran’s help was impossible and accused the United States of "lacking knowledge" of the region.

"Who can say regional stability can be restored without Iran? Who can say the region will experience total stability without Iran?" he said.

Rouhani sounded confident after the election, in which he soundly defeated hard-liner Ebrahim Raisi and two other candidates.

On what the elections meant, Rouhani said the May 19 election was a no to destruction and a yes to moderation and reason. "People told all [Iranian] organs, everyone should mind his own sphere and his own place."

Rouhani also jabbed at the conservatives, saying that people do like the armed forces, media and other centers of power, but they oppose making any institution subservient to one faction. He added that the office of the Supreme Leader belongs to all the people and does not belong to one faction. "People said no to diminishing the prestige of the Supreme Leader and the Revolutionary Guards..."

Referring to Iran's need for economic growth, Rouhani emphasized the need for normal relations with the rest of the world.

"We wanted to tell the world that on the basis of mutual respect and shared interests, we are ready to have interaction," he said.

However, Rouhani's power to implement policy is limited because under Iran’s theocratic system, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has final decision-making authority.

With reporting by Reuters and AFP