Can Iran and the U.S. improve their bilateral relations?

Iran's new President, Hassan Rouhani, seems to think so.

A day after his foreign minister met with the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany, Rouhani says the time for progress is now.

(SOUNDBITE) (Farsi) HASSAN ROUHANI, PRESIDENT OF IRAN, SAYING:

"It was clear that their view was the environment that has been created as a result of Iran's elections in this new government is completely different from the past."

Rouhani began his term as president in August and made his U.N. debut this week.

In a high profile news conference in New York, the Iranian leader expressed confidence that the nations could reach a peaceful agreement on a number of issues, including the status of its nuclear weapons program.

(SOUNDBITE) (Farsi) HASSAN ROUHANI, PRESIDENT OF IRAN, SAYING:

"I believe that in the not-too-distant future we'll be able to resolve and settle the nuclear issue step by step and to pave the way for Iran's better relations with the west, including the expansion of economic ties, the expansion of cultural ties and specifically the expansion of such relations between the western nations and Iran."

President Barack Obama announced Friday he had spoken by phone with Rouhani, marking the first time since 1979 presidents from the two nations have talked.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA, SAYING:

"While there will surely be important obstacles to moving forward and success is by no means guaranteed, I believe we can reach a comprehensive solution."

Obama has directed Secretary of State John Kerry to pursue this path with Iran.