In his first news conference since taking office, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, the man known as the "diplomat sheik," reiterated his willingness to participate in nuclear negotiations with the international community but stopped short of saying he would welcome direct talks with the United States.

"I, as president, say that the Islamic republic has a serious political intention to resolve the nuclear issue while maintaining our rights and trying to ease the concerns of all parties in the short term," Rouhani said.

Tehran says its nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes, but the United States and its Western allies believe Iran wants to build a nuclear weapon.