Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says he turned down President Obama’s offer of a meeting, all right — not once, but five times!

Today from Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency, on Rouhani speaking with reporters after a cabinet meeting:

Rouhani elaborated on the achievements of his recent visit to New York during which he attended and addressed the UN General Assembly session, held meetings with different world leaders, and had a phone talk with US President Barack Obama, and said, “During the recent visit to the UN, we strove to prevent a new war in the region and we came to be successful in the trip.”

Referring to his phone talk with Obama on the way back to Iran from New York, he said, “Before my trip (to New York), the Americans had sent 5 messages to arrange a meeting between me and Obama, but I turned them down.”

“Then they raised a plan for a brief meeting, but I didn’t agree (with it) much,; we didn’t disagree with (the idea to have) a meeting, but its grounds weren’t prepared.”

Rouhani further said the Iran-US relations are dominated by a “very dark atmosphere”, and said decades-long problems cannot be solved in just a few days.

Of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hard-hitting speech at the UN yesterday, Rouhani said, “Israel is upset to see that its sword has gone blunt and Iran grows more powerful day by day.”

On a conference call with reporters Friday, a senior administration official said “when we were at the U.N. General Assembly, we indicated to the Iranians that President Obama was willing to have a discussion with President Rouhani.”

“That discussion could not come about in New York when the two leaders were there; as we said at the time, that proved too complicated to set up with the Iranians.  However, ours was a standing offer of engagement for the two Presidents,” the official said.  “And then what happened is we learned earlier today from the Iranians that President Rouhani would speak — would want to speak with President Obama on the phone before he left New York. So that led us to set up the phone call.  So we had indicated earlier in the week our openness to a discussion, and earlier today we heard from the Iranians that President Rouhani could speak by phone and wanted to speak by phone before he left for Iran.”

Obama then walked out into the press briefing room to announce that he’d made a historic phone call, but Rouhani beat him to the punch with an announcement on Twitter.