Tunisia's president says Iran will win respect in the Arab world if it helps broker peace in Syria, and he renewed his offer of asylum to Syrian President Bashar Assad.

In an interview Monday with The Associated Press, President Moncef Marzouki also said rising extremism that has led to two political assassinations has cost Tunisia a year's worth of progress.

Marzouki warned that nations swept up in Arab Spring demands for democracy can easily return to dictatorships. He predicted Tunisia would escape that fate, but said stability depends largely on the outcome of unrest in Egypt and Libya.

Tunisia is considered the birthplace of the Arab Spring. Regional uprisings began after a poor fruit seller set himself on fire in December 2010.

Marzouki was at the United Nations' annual meeting.