TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday called for "fair and constructive" nuclear talks with world powers as the nation marked the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution with massive rallies, complete with anti-American and ant-Israeli chants.
The crowd burned U.S. and Israeli flags with pictures of President Barack Obama and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and shouted "Down with the U.S." and "Death to Israel" — chants that are commonplace on most Iranian rallies but now come against the backdrop of Rouhani's policy of outreach to the West.
Rouhani's appeal came ahead of next week's talks between Iran and six world powers seeking to eliminate fears that Tehran may use its nuclear programs to make atomic weapons. Both sides are to meet on Feb. 18 in Vienna to try to translate a landmark interim deal struck in November into a permanent agreement.
"Iran is determined to hold fair and constructive talks within the framework of international regulations and we hope to see such an intention on the other side as well," Rouhani told hundreds of thousands gathered in Tehran's Azadi, or Liberty, square and in the streets leading to it.
Tuesday marks the 35th anniversary of the revolution that toppled the pro-U.S. Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and brought Islamists to power. State media reported similar rallies elsewhere across the country, saying the gatherings drew millions of Iranians.
Tehran and world powers struck the interim deal in November under which Iran agreed to cap its controversial uranium enrichment program in return for the easing of some sanctions by the West. The interim accord is supposed to last for six months as Iran and the six-nation group — the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany — negotiate a final deal.
Rouhani said Tuesday the talks must be "based on good intentions and peacefulness," and dismissed any perception of military threats against Iran.
"If some have the illusion that there is a threat against the Iranian nation on the table, we say they need new eyeglasses," Rouhani told the rally in Tehran. "There is no military threat against the Iranian nation."
Rouhani added that his country's path "toward the peak of progress, science and technology, including peaceful nuclear technology, will be continuous."
The U.S. and Israel have said in the past that they do not rule out a military option against Iran's nuclear program, which the West suspects masks an effort to make nuclear arms.
Iran denies the charge, insisting the program is for peaceful purposes only, such as power generation and medical treatments.