Iranian president Hassan Rouhani
Iranian president Hassan RouhaniReuters

A senior Iranian cleric urged Washington and Tehran on Friday to “join hands” to end the sanctions on the Islamic Republic, local media reported, underlining the support of Iran’s influential religious establishment for President Hassan Rouhani’s diplomatic offensive.

“We await practical measures by U.S. officials,” cleric Kazem Sedighi was quoted by Reuters as having told worshippers at Friday prayers in Tehran.

“The presidents of Iran and the United States should join hands and end these cruel sanctions, which have not only harmed the Iranian nation but also the American and the European nations,” Sedighi said.

Since being elected Rouhani, who the West has branded as a “moderate”, has indicated an interest in a deal on Iran’s nuclear program, with hopes that the harsh sanctions imposed on the country would be lifted if it negotiated more with the West.

Iran’s parliament, controlled by political factions deeply loyal to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has also strongly endorsed Rouhani’s diplomatic drive, despite some rumblings from hardliners deeply suspicious of Washington.

Sedighi accused Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of wanting to sabotage the rapprochement between Tehran and Washington and also cautioned that a U.S. refusal to remove the military option from the table, as President Barack Obama indicated during a meeting with Netanyahu this past week, was a sign of its “insincerity.”

Netanyahu, speaking at the UN General Assembly this week, dismissed the Iranian leader as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” and said Israel was ready to stand alone to deny Tehran an atomic weapon.

Rouhani said in response to Netanyahu’s speech that Israel was "upset and angry" with signs of an emerging new relationship between his country and the West.

"We don't expect anything else from the Zionist regime," Rouhani told reporters after a cabinet meeting.

Israel is "upset and angry because it sees that its blunted sword is being replaced with logic as the governing force in the world, and because the Iranian nation's message of peace is being heard better," he added.

In another response to Netanyahu’s speech, an Iranian envoy declared that his country is ready to defend itself against any Israeli attack.

"The Israeli prime minister had better not even think about attacking Iran, let alone planning for that," Khodadad Seifi, a deputy ambassador at Iran's UN mission, said.

Meanwhile, Iranian negotiators are set to restart nuclear talks with world powers in mid-October and expect clear signs of relief from the sanctions in any deal to curb its atomic activities.

Iran and the six world powers - collectively known as the P5+1 - have met for several rounds of talks on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear programs. The last round of talks was held at the start of April in Almaty, Kazakhstan, but failed as did previous rounds.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Thursday that the United States will not take Iran at its word over pledges of openness regarding its suspected nuclear weapons program.

The top U.S. diplomat said the new mood by Iran of cooperation that was on display around the United Nations General Assembly in New York had to be backed up by quantifiable deeds.

"I assure (Prime Minister Binyamin) Netanyahu and the people of Israel that nothing that we do is going to be based on trust," Kerry told reporters in Tokyo.

Rather, Kerry explained, "it is going to be based on a series of steps to guarantee to all of us that we have certainty on what's happening."

(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)