New Iranian President says U.S. is looking for excuse to confront his country over its nuclear programme as he is sworn in
- Hasan Rouhani claims U.S. wants to confront ‘the countries they do not consider friends’
- Iran’s president made the allegation to North Korean official Kin Yong Nam
- His inauguration was approved today by Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
- He has pledged to get sanctions over Iran’s nuclear programme lifted
- Reports claim U.S.-educated Mohammad Nahavandian has been chosen as Mr Rouhani’s chief of staff
By Rebecca Seales PUBLISHED: 06:42 EST, 4 August 2013 | UPDATED: 07:01 EST, 4 August 2013
The West suspects Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons programme, a charge which Iran denies. Mr Rouhani, who was elected in June, has promised greater openness over the country’s nuclear activities. However, he is subordinate in the country’s power structure to the clerical leadership, particularly in foreign and security matters. At his inauguration earlier today, the new president was formally endorsed by Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The event, which was broadcast live on state television, saw Mr Rouhani sat cross-legged on a mat on one side of Ayatollah Khamenei, with outgoing president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on the other.
Mr Ahmadinejad has been a thorn in the side of Western leaders and the United Nations since he took power in 2005, thanks to hardline policies which raised frequent tensions. Speaking at the event, Mr Rouhani pledged to follow a path of moderation and work to get Western sanctions over Iran’s suspect nuclear programme lifted. Iran is under United Nations sanctions as well as unilateral Western oil and banking sanctions over its refusal to halt uranium enrichment, a technology that can be used to power reactors producing electricity or build nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear programme is peaceful and geared towards generating electricity and producing radioisotopes to treat cancer patients.
‘The government’s (goal) will be to tackle people’s living issues. … In parallel, it will take new steps in the arena of international relations to improve Iran’s standing on the basis of meeting national interests and remove the current oppressive sanctions,’ Mr Rouhani said. The leader also announced his first appointment since taking office, in which he named a U.S.-educated businessman as his chief of staff. A Sunday report by the official IRNA news agency says Hasan Rouhani has chosen Mohammad Nahavandian, a 58-year-old businessman with a doctorate in economics from George Washington University in Washington. Mr Nahavandian’s appointment is being seen as an attempt to reach out to the private sector.
Endorsement: Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (pictured left) gives his official seal of approval to president-elect Hasan Rouhani. Pictured right, the new president kisses the supreme leader’s robe.
The president’s team contains figures whose academic pedigrees include institutions in California, Washington and London, while Mr Rouhani himself studied in Scotland. It remains unclear if – or how – their Western-looking credentials will influence Iranian policies or foster potential outreach diplomacy, such as direct talks with the U.S. Ayatollah Khamenei, the ultimate authority in Iran, has the final say in all key matters, including Mr Rouhani’s upcoming selections for key Cabinet posts such as the foreign and intelligence ministers. During Sunday’s inauguration ceremony, Mr Rouhani kissed the supreme leader’s clerical robe, but avoided kissing his hand, something Mr Ahmadinejad did in 2005. The Ayatollah kissed Rouhani’s forehead in a blessing.