Italy signed Monday several economic deals with Iran at the start of President Hassan Rowhani's four-day trip to Rome and Paris, his first foray into Europe since the end of international sanctions aganst Tehran.

The European Union and the United States took the step this month in return for Iran's agreement with six major world powers in July to significantly scale down its nuclear programme.

The deal could be "only the first step towards a new season of peace and prosperity, not only in Iran but in the entire region," Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said in a press conference with Rowhani. 

Earlier, the Italian state railways said they agreed to help Iran build a metro and a high-speed train line between Tehran and Isfahan, and other deals were inked or being readied related to shipping, oil and gas, mining and agriculture.

"This is only the start: there are other sectors on which we can and must work more," Renzi said, on the eve of an Italy-Iran business forum that was expected to set the scene for more economic partnerships. 

On Tuesday, Rowhani was also scheduled to meet Pope Francis at the Vatican.

The Iranian president said the nuclear deal that took a major step toward ending his country's isolation was a "political miracle," and called on the international community to work with Iran to stabilize Syria and the wider Middle East. 

Human rights campaigners and Jewish leaders criticized the visit, recalling Iran's abuse of the death penalty and restrictions on freedom of expression, and Rowhani's calls for the destruction of Israel and denials of the Holocaust. 

In a statement, the Jewish Community of Rome expressed "displeasure," and said the president's presence in the Eternal City was "not welcome." 

The Iranian president was slated to travel on to Paris on Wednesday and preside over the signing of more economic deals between his oil-and-gas-rich nation and French businesses. He is to return home a day later.

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