Rouhani, who won a landslide victory in the June 14 presidential election, wasted no time in distinguishing his style from that of his often-provocative predecessor, delivering an inauguration speech that touched on his campaign promises of improving the country’s economy, mending international relations and giving greater social freedom to Iranians, but not at the expense of national interests.
For the first time, foreign dignitaries were invited to the swearing-in of an Iranian president. Diplomats from dozens of countries and several heads of state, including president of neighboring Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, attended the ceremony.
Rouhani also used his first speech as Iranian president to send a message to the United States and its Western allies, which have imposed severe economic sanctions on Iran over its disputed nuclear program.
“The only way to interact with Iran is to have dialogue from an equal position, creating mutual trust and respect and reducing enmities,” Rouhani said. “Let me state it clearly that if you want a positive response, talk to Iran not with a language of sanctions but a language of respect.”
Tehran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only, but the United States and its Western allies suspect that the country wants to build a nuclear weapon.
In Washington, White House press secretary Jay Carney congratulated Rouhani and said his inauguration “presents an opportunity for Iran to act quickly to resolve the international community’s deep concerns over Iran’s nuclear program.”
“Should this new government choose to engage substantively and seriously to meet its international obligations and find a peaceful solution to this issue, it will find a willing partner in the United States,” Carney said in a statement.
The two countries have not had diplomatic relations since 1979.
Although foreign policy issues are a priority for Rouhani, so, too, are regaining the public trust and helping repair the damage suffered in recent years by Iran’s economy, which faces an inflation rate of more than 40 percent, decimated purchasing power and rising unemployment.
“The government of hope and prudence wants to bring back happiness to Iranians’ lives,” Rouhani said, referring to his campaign’s motto. “To achieve this, we have to increase national wealth and power, and assign those with wisdom as decision makers, trust nongovernmental organizations, increase privatization and have trust in people.”
The event was presided over by the powerful siblings Ali and Sadegh Larijani, who are the speaker of the parliament and the head of the country’s judiciary, respectively, and longtime foes of Ahmadinejad.