By Jill Dougherty
The U.S. State Department said Monday it wasn't surprised that Iran's newly elected president, Hassan Rouhani, said that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should stay in power until 2014.
"We have a number of differences with Iran, and the leadership there, over Syria and the path forward," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters. "We've expressed on a number of occasions our concerns about their recent aid to the regime and the influx of foreign fighters, and specifically Hezbollah."
The United States and other Western nations are working on how to help the rebels in Syria's brutal, two-year civil war as the al-Assad government receives backing from Iran and Russia.
During his election campaign, Rouhani supported more moderate policies inside Iran and constructive engagement with other countries. But in his first news conference over the weekend, he stuck by al-Assad and insisted Iran would not revive its moratorium on uranium enrichment from a decade ago, saying , "This period is over."
Psaki said the United States will not offer anything new to Iran in nuclear talks at this point, adding that the six countries negotiating with Tehran are "ready to meet with Iran when Iran is ready to respond substantively to the balanced proposal put forward by the P5+1 in Almaty (Kazakhstan)." The six countries and Iran last met in April.
"We haven't seen a substantive response yet," she added.
Iran's Supreme Leader, Ali Hosseini Khamenei, she said, "holds the nuclear portfolio, and ... we have not had expectations leading up to this election that that would change."
Psaki noted that Rouhani made several promises during his election campaign but said: "The question is, what happens moving forward? And we will see."
"He does not take office until August, so it's too early to say what his policies will be. We look forward to him and are hopeful that he will fulfill the campaign promises he made to the Iranian people, such as expanding personal freedoms, releasing political prisoners and improving Iran's relations with the international community, but time will tell."