ROME (Reuters) - Iran wants to become a major exporting nation following the lifting of international sanctions, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday, adding that economic growth was crucial to defeating extremism in the Middle East.
Rouhani is on a four-day visit to Italy and France, where he is looking to rebuild Iran's ties with the West and promote his country as a pillar of strength and stability in an increasingly fraught and fragmented region.
Italy unveiled some 17 billion euros ($18.4 billion) of deals with Iran on Monday and mega contracts are also in the offing in France, with EU countries anxious to cash in on the recent end of sanctions following last year's nuclear accord.
"We are ready to welcome investment, welcome technology and create a new export market," Rouhani told a business forum on the second day of his stay in Rome, saying that Iran wanted to become a regional economic hub.
"Under the new conditions, we want to export 30 percent of what we produce in Iran."
Italian leaders have called on Shi'ite Muslim Iran to help the West defeat the Sunni Muslim extremist group Islamic State, which controls swathes of Iraq and Syria.
"If we want to combat extremism in the world, if we want to fight terror, one of the roads before us is providing growth and jobs. Lack of growth creates forces for terrorism. Unemployment creates soldiers for terrorists," the Iranian leader said.
Many Western nations have accused Iran of funding various militant groups, and despite the nuclear deal between world powers and Tehran last year, the United States is keeping some of its financial sanctions in place because of its links to organizations such as Hezbollah in Lebanon.
(Reporting by Sam Wilkin, Steve Scherer and Antonella Cinelli, Writing by Crispian Balmer)