Rouhani tells Iran’s powerful clerics they need to regain citizens’ trust


A handout picture released by the official website of the Iranian president-elect shows Hassan Rouhani leaving following his first live televised speech since his election during a ceremony at state TV in Tehran on June 29, 2013. Rouhani vowed to apply "constructive interaction" with world powers to ease tensions raised by Iran's nuclear ambitions and its support for the embattled Syrian regime. (HO/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

Iran’s president-elect, the moderate cleric Hassan Rouhani, said Wednesday that the Islamic republic’s powerful clergy needs to do more to address the needs of Iranian citizens and regain their trust.

In an event at the Interior Ministry that was broadcast live on state television, Rouhani told a gathering of hundreds of his fellow clerics that the Iranian people “must feel a sense of tranquility and security in all fields,” especially politics and social issues.

Acknowledging the growing divide between the policies of the nation’s religious authorities and the desires of the majority of Iranians, Rouhani said, “Today this issue of mutual trust between people and the clergy is more sensitive.”

He added that it was especially important to address the concerns of Iran’s large population of young people, as they struggle with limited opportunities for work and recreation.

“We have to attract them, and this is not possible with harsh views,” he said. “Our young people must view the clergy as their fathers and themselves as the children of the Islamic society.”

Rouhani, who was overwhelmingly elected last month to succeed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said it was time for real change in the role of government in everyday life.

“Government’s involvement in the social and private lives of people should diminish,” he said.

Rouhani garnered 51 percent of the vote in a field of six candidates in the June 14 election, posting a surprise victory.

Referring to the economic and diplomatic crises that Iran faces because of international sanctions over its disputed nuclear activities, Rouhani struck a cautiously upbeat note.

“My government will inherit more problems, more than any other government in the history of Iran, but I’m hopeful,” he said. “I’m hopeful because I have the people’s support.”

He added, though, that progress depended on a concerted effort by all Iranians.

“While the nation is asking and hoping for change and reform, there must not be any division between the system, the clergy and the people,” Rouhani said.

Jason Rezaian has been The Post’s correspondent in Tehran since 2012. He was previously a freelance writer based in Tehran.
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