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Moderate cleric elected president of Iran

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
August 5th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Moderate cleric Hassan Rowhani has been inaugurated as president of Iran. It what may be seen as a breakthrough between Iran and the west, Rowhani's election follows eight years of sanctions and nettlesome diplomatic relations under the leadership of former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "The Iranian people voted 'yes' to moderation," Rowhani declared in a speech. "The Iranian people want to live free."

Rowhani officially became president after receiving the formal endorsement of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who handed power to him at a ceremony at the leader's compound. Former presidents Ahmadinejad and Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani were also in attendance.

Former President Mohammad Khatami, a key supporter in Rowhani's bid to become president, was not present at the ceremony.

"I want to restore hope to the Iranian people and fix the economy and get rid of these cruel sanctions," Rowhani said after the ceremony. The new president was referring to the U.S.-led sanctions imposed on Iran over its disputed nuclear program.

Khamenei said Rowhani has expressed his desire to seek a "logical relationship" with the Western powers, "and I support him."

Reiterating his message, Rowhani said "I want to engage with the West but with mutual respect and trust."

Those in the West have watched Rowhani in the hopes of more moderate leadership in Iran. Under Ahmadinejad, Iran grew more isolated and came under stringent United Nations, U.S. and European Union sanctions over its nuclear program.

Rowhani won 50.7 percent of the vote in the June 14 election, making a second round of voting unnecessary.

Expected nominees for his proposed cabinet are veteran retired diplomat Mohammad Javad Zarif, tapped for the foreign ministry, and ex-oil minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh for the same portfolio. Rowhani's proposed cabinet is largely made up of reform minded or moderate technocrats, many of whom served in the governments of former presidents Rafsanjani and Khatami.

In particular, Zarif is American-educated, speaks fluent English and served from 2002 to 2007 as Iran's ambassador to the United Nations.

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