However, the overall tone of Hasan Rowhani's first post-election news conference, will likely be viewed by the West as further evidence that his stunning victory last week could open new possibilities for dialogue to ease tensions over Tehran's disputed nuclear program.
In his outreach to Washington, Rowhani also had a dual message. He urged for no additional tensions and said both countries should "look to the future." But he repeated past statements from Iran's leadership that one-on-one talks are only possible if the U.S. vows to "never interfere in Iranian affairs."
Many other questions remain. Rowhani sidestepped the issue of Iran's close alliance with Syrian President Bashar Assad, saying only that the efforts to end the civil war and restore stability rest with the "Syrian people."
He also must balance the hopes of many supporters who want him to push hard against the ruling system. At the end of the news conference, a spectator yelled out for the release of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, who has been under house arrest for more than two years. Rowhani made no comment.
Rowhani does not have authority to set major policies, such as the direction of the nuclear program or relations with the West. All those decisions rest with the ruling clerics and the powerful Revolutionary Guard, which have so far appeared to embrace Rowhani but could easily turn against him if he is perceived as a threat to their grip on power.
Rowhani, however, can use the strength of his landslide victory and his influential connections, including with former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, to try to sway policies. He also will serve as Iran's main international envoy and is almost certain to present a much milder tone than his combative predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is to formally give up power in August.
This could help lower political friction between Iran and the West and also undercut calls by some factions in Israel and the U.S. to study military options against Iran's nuclear facilities.
The 64-year-old Rowhani — the only cleric in the presidential race — described his election as opening a "new era" and said he would "follow the path of moderation and justice, not extremism."
"We have to enhance mutual trust between Iran and other countries," he said. "We have to build trust."
He also said dealing with the economy was among his priorities, in a clear reference to how Western sanctions over Iran's nuclear efforts have helped spike inflation to more than 30 percent and slashed vital revenue. Previously, Rowhani — a former nuclear negotiator — criticized Iranian positions that have led to increased sanctions but also described the economic pressures by the U.S. and others as "oppressive."
"The Iranian nation has done nothing to deserve sanctions. The work it has done has been within international frameworks . If sanctions have any benefits, they will only benefit Israel. They have no benefits for others," he said.
He promised to encourage "step by step" measures to reassure the West over Iran's nuclear ambitions. The West claims that Iran is seeking a nuclear weapon. Iranian leaders, including Rowhani, insist Iran seeks reactors only for energy and medical applications.
Enriched uranium is used as fuel for energy and research reactors but it can be further boosted to make a nuclear warhead.
"The first step will be showing greater transparency. We are ready to show greater transparency and make clear that the Islamic Republic of Iran's actions are totally within international frameworks," he said. "The second step is promoting mutual confidence. We'll take measures in both fields. The first goal is that no new sanctions are imposed. Then, that the (existing) sanctions are reduced."
On Syria, he said the ultimate responsibility to resolve the more than two-year-old civil war should be in the hands of the "Syrian people."
"We are opposed to foreign intervention," he said. "We hope peace and tranquility will return to Syria through the cooperation with countries of the region and world."
Rowhani formally takes office in August. In the meantime, it appears Ahmadinejad's political foes could be plotting a payback, underscoring the often cutthroat nature of internal Iranian affairs.
Iran's official news agency said a criminal court summoned Ahmadinejad over a lawsuit filed by the country's parliament speaker and others.
Monday's report by IRNA gave no further details, but Ahmadinejad and the speaker, Ali Larijani, have waged political feuds for years. In February, Ahmadinejad released a barely audible videotape that purported to show discussion over bribes that included Larijani's brother. A parliamentary committee also joined Larijani in the legal action.
IRNA, which comes under the president's authority, noted there were several other subpoenas issued previously against Ahmadinejad and described the latest as unconstitutional. The court has set a November date for Ahmadinejad's appearance, it said.
BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP) — President Barack Obama will appeal to Northern Ireland's youth to sustain their peace in his first opportunity to highlight the role the United States has played helping bring about reconciliation in the country.
Obama arrived at Belfast on Monday morning. After his Belfast speech he will attend a two-day summit of the Group of Eight industrial economies.
Later Monday he was to meet on the sidelines of the summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Topics for the two leaders range from Syria to arms control. Russia has criticized Obama's decision to arm Syrian rebels and has dismissed U.S. claims that President Bashar Assad's regime has used chemical weapons against Syrians.
Russia is a member of the G-8. So are Canada, Japan, Britain, France, Italy and Germany.
CHICAGO (AP) -- Bernard "Bernie" Sahlins, who co-founded Chicago's Second City theater and who nurtured the early careers of many of the earliest stars of "Saturday Night Live," died Sunday. He was 90.
Andrew Alexander, one of Second City's current owners and its CEO, told The Associated Press that Sahlins died peacefully at his Chicago home with his family nearby. He is survived by his wife, Jane Nicholl Sahlins.
Sahlins and business partners Howard Alk and Paul Sills opened The Second City in December 1959, and it quickly gained national attention and helped establish Chicago as a vibrant comedy town, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
The Second City wasn't Sahlins' first attempt at running a theater. He was a producer-investor in a theater troupe in the early 1950s that was comprised of many fellow University of Chicago graduates, and he and several business partners produced plays at the Studebaker Theater from October 1956 until the following year, when it had to close due to a lack of funding.
In his 2002 memoir, "Days and Nights at the Second City," Sahlins wrote that he, Alk and Sills hadn't set out to build another theater.
"We had been burned enough times doing that. This was still the Beat generation, and we started out to found a coffee house where we idlers, including the actors whom we had with for years, could loll around and put the world in its proper place."
But The Second City caught on within months of opening, despite some early money problems and other issues, and it became instrumental in the growth and development of improvisational and sketch comedy.
Sahlins had an eye for talent, and he hired and nurtured the early careers of such future stars as John and Jim Belushi, Joan Rivers, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Gilda Radner and Harold Ramis, among others.
Shortly after "Saturday Night Live" began airing in the fall of 1975, Second City became a breeding ground for the show. According to Second City producer emeritus Joyce Sloane, who died in 2011, Sahlins once half-jokingly commanded her to lock "SNL" creator and producer Lorne Michaels out of the building, the Sun-Times reported.
Alexander, who along with business partner Len Stuart bought The Second City from Sahlins in 1985, according to the theater's website, told the AP that Sahlins will be remembered for always urging performers to work at the top of their intellect, and that this is still preached at the theater today.
"You think about that theater, and think of all the stars that came out of it ... from Belushi to Aykroyd to Allan Arkin. It's extraordinary, the amount of talented people that came out of it," Alexander said.