By Dayan Candappa
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Friday said Tehran was not in a coalition with Russia to fight Islamic State militants in the Middle East and that ties with the United States had improved, though there was "still a long road to travel."
Speaking through an interpreter, Rouhani said President Vladimir Putin told him personally that Moscow wants to play a more active role in combating extremist groups in the region.
"I do not see a coalition between Iran and Russia on fighting terrorism in Syria," Rouhani, in New York for the United Nations General Assembly, told a group of senior editors from media organizations.
He noted improvements in U.S.-Iranian relations but cautioned that it was unclear when ties between the two long-estranged nations could return to normal.
"The situation has certainly changed," Rouhani said. "We can point to the tangibles, the many steps forward, but there is still a long road to travel."
He described the historic nuclear deal between Iran and the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China as a "big test" for U.S.-Iranian relations and said that it was important to create an atmosphere of trust.
Implementation of the July 14 nuclear agreement, which will eventually see the lifting of crippling economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for limits on Tehran's nuclear program, could begin by November or December of this year.
"Conditions are ripe for that," Rouhani said.
(Reporting by Dayan Candappa, writing by Louis Charbonneau; editing by Grant McCool)