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Iran president weighs in on hajj stampede, imprisoned U.S. reporter

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani blamed the "ineptitude of the Saudi government" for the disaster at the hajj the previous day that killed more than 700 pilgrims, including more than 100 Iranians.

Speaking to the media Friday after arriving for the annual U.N. General Assembly, Rouhani speculated that safety was compromised because the Saudis are "running short" of security forces as it continues its bombing campaign in Yemen against the Houthi rebels.

President Rouhani

Rouhani's comments come as thousands protested in the streets of Tehran as a senior cleric angrily demanded Saudi Arabia hand over control of the annual pilgrimage to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the world's largest body of Muslim nations.

Iran's state TV says the Foreign Ministry summoned Riyadh's envoy to Tehran for the second time in as many days to hear the Shiite powerhouse's protests over alleged "Saudi mismanagement" that purportedly led to the deadly stampede.

Rouhani, who recently sat down with "60 Minutes" correspondent Steve Kroft, touched on a number of other topics on Friday:

  • Rouhani said Russian President Vladimir Putin "wants to be more active" against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and that Russia "wishes to have a more active and effective role" in Syria.
  • Referring to ISIS' first surge within Iraq in June 2014, Rouhani claimed "had it not been for Iran's help, Baghdad would have fallen."
  • Rouhani again insisted that "death to America" chants in Iran show no "animosity" towards the American people.
  • Rouhani refused to say if he would shake President Obama's hand if there is an opportunity at the U.N., saying their letters to date showed "opinions can be transferred" without a direct interaction.
  • Speaking about detained Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, Rouhani continued to characterize Rezaian's imprisonment - and other detentions - as "matter for the judiciary," but did not explicitly deny interest in a prisoner swap of some kind.
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