US

Despite Rouhani's outreach, Iranians still chant 'Death to America' after weekly prayers

A protester, left, approaches President Hassan Rouhani's car leaving  Mehrabad airport after his arrival from the U.S. in Tehran, Iran, Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013.  Iranians from across the political spectrum hailed Saturday the historic phone conversation between President Barack Obama and his Iranian counterpart Rouhani, reflecting wide support for an initiative that has the backing of both reformists and the country's conservative clerical leadership. Despite the broad-based praise, the hard-liners opposed to any improved contact with Washington made their objections clear at Rouhani's arrival in Tehran. Several dozen protesters chanted "Death to America" and tried to block Rouhani's motorcade.(AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

A protester, left, approaches President Hassan Rouhani's car leaving Mehrabad airport after his arrival from the U.S. in Tehran, Iran, Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013. Iranians from across the political spectrum hailed Saturday the historic phone conversation between President Barack Obama and his Iranian counterpart Rouhani, reflecting wide support for an initiative that has the backing of both reformists and the country's conservative clerical leadership. Despite the broad-based praise, the hard-liners opposed to any improved contact with Washington made their objections clear at Rouhani's arrival in Tehran. Several dozen protesters chanted "Death to America" and tried to block Rouhani's motorcade.(AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)  (The Associated Press)

Iranians are still chanting "Death to America" and burning the U.S. flag after weekly prayers in Tehran, despite their new president's outreach to the West.

The customary chants after Friday prayers in Tehran reflect the challenges facing President Hassan Rouhani as he tries to build on the groundbreaking exchanges with Washington that included a telephone chat last week with President Barack Obama.

However, Ayatollah Kazem Sedighi, a cleric who led the prayers in the Iranian capital, tried to strike middle ground, saying America and Iran should "join hands" in a struggle to overcome sanctions that have crippled Iran's economy.

Sedighi also says Iran will not pull back from its "peaceful nuclear rights."

The West suspects Iran's nuclear program is geared toward making an atomic bomb. Iran denies the charge.