New president of Iran pledges change

White House extends olive branch to Rouhani, though sanctions still planned

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani waves after his swearing-in at the parliament in Tehran yesterday. Photograph: AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani waves after his swearing-in at the parliament in Tehran yesterday. Photograph: AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi


Hassan Rouhani was sworn in as Iran’s president yesterday, promising moderation and transparency but urging those who wanted the “right response” from his country to “use the language of respect” instead of sanctions.

In an inauguration ceremony in Tehran, the 64-year-old cleric took the oath of office before senior politicians, foreign dignitaries and MPs.

Mr Rouhani, Iran’s seventh president since the 1979 Islamic revolution, formally began his four-year mandate on Saturday when Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in a separate ceremony, endorsed his sensational victory in June’s election.

During yesterday’s swearing-in ceremony, Mr Rouhani delivered a speech in which he said “people have voted for moderation” and that his “government of hope and prudence” would work to fight poverty, corruption and discrimination.

“People want change,” said the new president, who described himself as the representative of all Iranian people and not only those who voted for him. “People want to live better, to have dignity as well as a stable life. They also want to recapture their position among nations.”

Women’s rights
He pledged to promote women’s rights and advance equality for women in society, despite proposing an all-male cabinet. Mr Rouhani said Iranians sought “peace” and “stability” and that Tehran was against “foreign intervention” in any country.

“The only way for interaction with Iran is dialogue on an equal footing, confidence-building and mutual respect as well as reducing antagonism and aggression,” he said. “Transparency is the key to creating trust but it cannot be one-sided. If you want the right response, don’t speak with Iran in the language of sanctions, speak in the language of respect.”

Within hours, the White House extended an olive branch to Mr Rouhani, saying Tehran would find a “willing partner in the United States” should it choose to engage.

‘Call for change’
“We note that President Rouhani recognised his election represented a call by the Iranian people for change, and we hope the Iranian government will heed the will of the voters,” it said. “The inauguration of President Rouhani presents an opportunity for Iran to act quickly to resolve the international community’s deep concerns over Iran’s nuclear programme.

“Should this new government choose to engage seriously to meet its international obligations and find a peaceful solution to this issue, it will find a willing partner in the United States.”

Mr Rouhani also presented the list of his cabinet members to the parliament. They included Mohammad Javad Zarif, nominated as the foreign minister. Zarif, a former ambassador to the UN, is a US-educated veteran diplomat who has previously led secret Tehran-Washington negotiations and is seen as best positioned to normalise relations between the two countries.

However, US house of representatives last week passed a sanctions Bill that will make existing measures against Tehran even more stringent.