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Iran's president says Syria's leader must remain in power to fight extremist groups

FILE - In this Sept. 26, 2015, file photo, Iran's President Hassan Rouhani addresses the Sustainable Development Summit 2015 at United Nations headquarters. Rouhani said in a meeting Sunday evening with scholars and think tank experts that Iran will cooperate with any country that puts fighting and defeating "terrorism" as its top priority — but it cannot work with any government that makes a change in Syria's regime its top priority. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

FILE - In this Sept. 26, 2015, file photo, Iran's President Hassan Rouhani addresses the Sustainable Development Summit 2015 at United Nations headquarters. Rouhani said in a meeting Sunday evening with scholars and think tank experts that Iran will cooperate with any country that puts fighting and defeating "terrorism" as its top priority — but it cannot work with any government that makes a change in Syria's regime its top priority. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)  (The Associated Press)

Iran's president says Syrian leader Bashar Assad must remain in power to fight extremist groups like the Islamic State, and must not be weakened.

Hassan Rouhani told a meeting Sunday evening with scholars and think tank experts that Iran will cooperate with any country that puts fighting and defeating "terrorism" as its top priority — but it cannot work with any government that makes a change in Syria's regime its top priority.

Rouhani's view puts Iran at odds with key nations who adopted a roadmap in Geneva in June 2012 which calls for the formation of a transitional government in Syria with full executive powers "on the basis of mutual consent."

Rouhani warned that putting regime change first would lead to an extremist takeover of Syria.