Iranian President-elect Hassan Rouhani..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani took the oath of office before parliament in Tehran on Sunday and was expected later in the day to name a cabinet he said would be chosen from figures across the political spectrum.
"In the presence of the holy Koran and before the nation, I swear to the omnipotent God to safeguard the official religion of the country and the Islamic Republic as well as the country's constitution," he told parliament and foreign dignitaries in a ceremony broadcast live on state television.
Rouhani, elected with a wide margin over conservative rivals in elections in June, has pledged to pursue less confrontational policies abroad in order to ease international sanctions on Iran's economy over its disputed nuclear program.
But Rouhani is very much an insider in the Islamic Republic, having served in senior military and security roles since shortly after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
As well as pressure from the West, Rouhani faces the huge task of trying to fix an economy damaged by sanctions and the profligacy of the previous government.
He also has to try to balance the demands of hardliners who dominate parliament and the officially sidelined reformists whose support helped him win the election.
Earlier in the day, Hassan Rouhani told the head of the North Korean parliament, Kim Yong-nam, that Iran’s nuclear program is intended for peaceful purposes, according to Iranian state-run media.
“Iran believes that the US and the West are always seeking a pretext to confront with those countries, which are not friendly in their view, while all Iranian nuclear centers are under supervision of the IAEA representatives and inspectors,” Rouhani was quoted as saying.
Kim, who is in Tehran to attend the inauguration ceremony, said that the alliance between the two overtly anti-Western nations is growing stronger.
“Tehran and Pyongyang are in a common anti-imperialism stance, so in this direction, North Korea has always considered Iran’s victory as its own,” the parliamentarian was quoted as saying.
“The US and the West want to deprive independent states of their own inalienable [nuclear] rights, but independent countries will resist and defend their rights,” he said.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s office on Saturday night stood by its fierce condemnation of comments attributed to Rouhani that the “Zionist regime is a wound that needs to be removed,” saying Iran’s later denial of the statement was possibly manipulation of the state-run press.
On Friday, Iran’s semi-official student news agency ISNA quoted Rouhani as saying at an al-Quds Day event, “The Zionist regime is a wound that has sat on the body of the Muslim world for years and needs to be removed.”
The Prime Minister’s Office then issued a harsh condemnation, saying these words showed the true face of the new Iranian president, installed in office on Saturday.
“Rouhani’s true face has been revealed earlier than expected,” the statement issued on Friday by the PMO said.
And then, as if anticipating what would happen next, the statement continued, “Even if they will now rush to deny his remarks, this is what the man thinks and this is the plan of the Iranian regime.”
“These remarks by President Rouhani must rouse the world from the illusion that part of it has been caught up in since the Iranian elections,” said Netanyahu, who since Rouhani’s election in June has been calling on the world not to be “taken in” by his “moderate” words and demeanor.
“The president there has changed, but the goal of the regime has not: to achieve nuclear weapons in order to threaten Israel, the Middle East and the peace and security of the entire world. A country that threatens the destruction of the State of Israel must not be allowed to possess weapons of mass destruction,” the prime minister said.