Presence of EU nuclear negotiator Solana signals Tehran’s willingness for openness in talks

In the midst of parliamentarians, senior clerics, top officials and an array of foreign dignitaries, Hassan Rouhani was sworn in as Iran’s new President on Sunday.

A moderate cleric backed by the former President Mohammad Khatami and the reformists, Mr. Rouhani has emerged as a unifying figure — his comprehensive victory in the June elections amid high turnout being widely interpreted as an event that brought closure to the divisive and fractious 2009 presidential elections.

A regime insider, who is open to a constructive engagement with Iran’s detractors in the West and elsewhere, Mr. Rouhani has unveiled the template of his four years tenure in the presidential office, which commenced on Saturday, when he was formally endorsed by the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. During an hour-long ceremony on Saturday, Mr. Rouhani laid out it his priorities: revival of the economy, removal of sanctions, political stability and pursuit of a flexible foreign policy that is open to engagement. “The orientation of the administration is toward saving Iran’s economy, interacting with the world constructively, and reviving morality,” said the new President.

Mr. Rouhani has been emphatic about promoting social cohesion and inclusivity. On Sunday, he told Parliament that he would form a government of “wisdom and hope”, where all Iranians would be represented. “All of those who voted, whether they voted for me, someone else, or even if they didn’t vote, all of them are Iranian citizens and have citizenship rights.”

Championing gender rights, Mr. Rouhani pledged to advance women’s rights and freedoms, and discourage governmental interference in people’s lives.

However, he slammed sanctions as a counterproductive instrument adopted by the West, which has impeded a breakthrough in talks. “If you want an adequate response, you shouldn’t speak the language of sanctions, you should speak the language of respect,” said the President.

During the ceremony, there was sufficient symbolism about Tehran’s willingness to turn a new leaf in its dialogue with the West, in the form of presence of Javier Solana — who was extended a special invitation — the former foreign policy chief of the European Union (EU) who has vast experience of conducting successful nuclear diplomacy with Mr. Rouhani, Iran’s former chief negotiator during the nuclear talks.

Extrovert approach

For the first time, Iran has invited foreign guests for a presidential inaugural, signalling Tehran’s extrovert approach during the Rouhani presidency.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Seyed Abbas Araqchi said dignitaries from 52 countries and the U.N., including 10 Presidents, eight Vice-Presidents, two Prime Ministers, three Deputy Prime Ministers, seven Parliament speakers, 11 Foreign Ministers and 13 other Ministers were present for the inaugural. Vice-President Hamid Ansari represented India at the ceremony. He was expected to call on Mr. Rouhani, later in the evening.

Mr. Rouhani is expected to present his Cabinet line-up for endorsement to the Majlis. Iran’s Press TV reported that the list of Ministers proposed includes Mohammad Javad Zarif as the Foreign Minister and the experienced Bijan Namdar Zanganeh as the Minster of Oil. Mahmoud Alavi has have been designated as the Minister of Intelligence.

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