TEHRAN, Iran - Iran's president used his final moments before leaving for New York on Monday to urge Western leaders to heed his appeals for greater dialogue and take steps to ease painful economic sanctions as a path to "reach joint interests."

Hasan Rouhani hopes to use the annual U.N. General Assembly gathering to win promises to restart stalled talks over Tehran's nuclear program. Rouhani also is appealing to the U.S. and allies to roll back sanctions to move ahead the negotiations.

The official IRNA news agency quoted Rouhani as saying Monday the West should choose the "path of interaction, talks and leniency, so we can reach joint interests." He also called sanctions "unacceptable and illegal" and a roadblock to progress on settling the nuclear impasse.

"The Iranian nation is a lover of peace and culture and it is after progress without any causing damage to other countries," said Rouhani.

The West suspects Iran is pursuing nuclear weapon. Iran denies the charge saying its nuclear activities have aimed at peaceful purposes like power generation and cancer treatment.

Rouhani's U.N. visit has raised speculation on possible breakthrough in relations with the United States, which broke ties with Tehran after the storming of the U.S. Embassy in late 1979. A total of 52 hostages were held 444 days.

A commentary Monday in the hard-line Kayhan newspaper warned that shaking hands with President Barack Obama would be a "big mistake" and would represent a concession to Washington without any direct benefit for Iran.

Kayhan called Obama a "war criminal" for the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and its bases in the Gulf and elsewhere in the region. "This is the same evil hand that singed economic punishments against Iranian nations," it said.

The uncompromising tone suggests rifts at Iran's highest levels. Kayhan typically reflects the views of hard-liners close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has apparently given Rouhani critical backing for his overtures to the West and push to reopen nuclear negotiations.

On the other hand, the website of former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani released part of his comments during an interview with a local quarterly. He said that frozen relations between the United States and Iran cannot be continued indefinitely.

"The method that we have now — no talk and no relations with the U.S. — is not capable to be continued," said Rafsanajni. He said there is no difference between the U.S. and Europe, China and Russia, which Iran has relations. "Why shouldn't we talk with the U.S.?" asked Rafsanjani, who supported Rouhani during his presidential campaign.

Mohammad Ali Abatahi, a vice-president under former reformist President Mohammad Khatami, told pro-reform Etemad daily he does not expect an official meeting between Rouhani and Obama, but noted that the U.N. gathering could help in the effort to reduce sanctions against Iran.

But Mahdi Hojjat, deputy head of Iran's cultural heritage department, predicted a meeting between the two presidents is likely.

Rouhani and Obama are scheduled to address the U.N. on Tuesday. The Iranian delegation includes Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, a former U.N. ambassador.

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  • Iranians celebrate the victory of moderate presidential candidate Hassan Rouhani (portrait) in the presidential elections at Vanak square in northern Tehran on June 15, 2013. Iranian Interior Minister Mohammad Mostafa Najjar said Rouhani won outright with 18.6 million votes, or 50.68 percent. (ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Passengers in a public bus flash victory signs in a reaction of supporters of the Iranian presidential candidate Hassan Rouhani, as they attend a celebration gathering, in Tehran, Iran, Saturday, June 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

  • A supporter of Iranian presidential candidate Hassan Rouhani, shown in poster, attends a celebration gathering in Tehran, Iran, Saturday, June 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

  • Supporters of the Iranian presidential candidate Hassan Rouhani, shown in poster at center, attend a celebration gathering in Tehran, Iran, Saturday, June 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

  • A female supporter of Iranian presidential candidate Hassan Rouhani flashes a victory sign as she holds his poster during a celebration gathering in Tehran, Iran, Saturday, June 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

  • Supporter of the Iranian presidential candidate Hassan Rouhani celebrate outside his campaign headquarters in Tehran, Iran, Saturday, June 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

  • A female supporter of Iranian presidential candidate Hassan Rouhani, flashes a victory sign as she holds his poster during a celebration gathering in Tehran, Iran, Saturday, June 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

  • A supporter of Iranian presidential candidate Hassan Rouhani holds his poster as another youth waves to a clergyman outside the campaign headquarters of Rouhani, in Tehran, a day after the election, Iran, Saturday, June 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

  • An Iranian woman flashes the sign for victory as she holds a portrait of moderate presidential candidate Hassan Rouhani during celebrations for his victory in the Islamic Republic's presidential elections in downtown Tehran on June 15, 2013. (BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Iranians supporters of moderate presidential candidate, Hassan Rouhani flash the sign of victory holding a portrait of him as they wait for the final results outside his campaign headquarter in downtown Tehran on June 15, 2013. Rouhani has a clear lead in Iran's presidential election, garnering 51 percent of the vote at 65 percent of polling stations across the country, the interior ministry said. (BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images)

  • An Iranian woman holds a portrait of moderate presidential candidate Hassan Rouhani as she rides on a motorcycle along Valiasr street in Tehran on June 15, 2013 after he was elected as president. (BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images)

  • An Iranian woman holds her purple scarf, the campaign color of moderate presidential candidate Hassan Rouhani, as she celebrates along Valiasr street after he was elected as president on June 15, 2013, in the capital Tehran. (BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Iranians gather as they celebrate the victory of moderate presidential candidate Hassan Rouhaniin the presidential elections at Vanak Square, in northern Tehran, on June 15, 2013. Iranian Interior Minister Mohammad Mostafa Najjar said Rouhani won outright with 18.6 million votes, or 50.68 percent. (ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Iranian supporters of moderate presidential candidate Hassan Rouhani who won the national elections, celebrate in downtown Tehran on June 15, 2013. (BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Iranians celebrate along Valiasr street, in the capital Tehran, on June 15, 2013, after moderate presidential candidate Hassan Rouhani was elected as president. (BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images)

  • An Iranian woman celebrates the victory of moderate presidential candidate Hassan Rouhani (portrait) in the presidential elections at Vanak Square, in northern Tehran, on June 15, 2013. (ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Iranians celebrate the victory of moderate presidential candidate Hassan Rouhani (portrait) in the Islamic Republic's presidential elections at Vanak Square, in northern Tehran, on June 15, 2013. (ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Iranians celebrate the victory of moderate presidential candidate Hassan Rouhani (portrait) in the presidential elections at Vanak Square, in northern Tehran, on June 15, 2013. (ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Iranians gather to celebrate the victory of moderate presidential candidate Hassan Rouhani in the presidential elections at Vanak Square, in northern Tehran, on June 15, 2013. (ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • An Iranian woman celebrates the victory of moderate presidential candidate Hassan Rouhani in the presidential elections at Vanak Square, in northern Tehran, on June 15, 2013. (ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Iranians gather as they celebrate the victory of moderate presidential candidate Hassan Rouhani in the presidential elections at Vanak Square, in northern Tehran, on June 15, 2013. (ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Iranian women hold a portrait of moderate presidential candidate Hassan Rouhani who won the national election in downtown Tehran on June 15, 2013. (BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A female supporter of Iranian presidential candidate Hasan Rouhani flashes a victory sign, as she holds his poster, during a celebration gathering, in Tehran, Iran, Saturday, June 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

  • Iranians celebrate the victory of moderate presidential candidate Hassan Rowhani (portrait) in the Islamic Republic's presidential elections in downtown Tehran on June 15, 2013. (BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images)

  • In front of a portrait of the late Iranian revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini, presidential candidate Hasan Rowhani, a former top nuclear negotiator, center, gestures to his supporters at a rally in Tehran, Iran, Saturday, June 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi, File)

  • An Iranian woman holds a portrait of moderate presidential candidate Hassan Rouhani as she rides on a motorcycle along Valiasr street in Tehran on June 15, 2013 after he was elected as president. (BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Iranians celebrate the victory of moderate presidential candidate Hassan Rouhani in the Islamic Republic's presidential elections at Vanak square in northern Tehran on June 15, 2013. (ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Iranians celebrate the victory of moderate presidential candidate Hassan Rowhani (portrait) in the Islamic Republic's presidential elections at Vanak square in northern Tehran on June 15, 2013. (ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)