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Change in methods, not principles: Rouhani

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Hasan Rouhani
Hasan Rouhani

Iran’s new President said on Saturday his countrymen elected him to change the foreign policy and shift away from the style adopted under his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

“We don’t have the right to use foreign policy to chant slogans or clap,” said Mr. Rouhani.

“Foreign policy is not where one can speak or take a position without paying attention,” he said during the inauguration of Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. “People in the June 14 elections declared that they want a new foreign policy,” the official IRNA news agency quoted him as saying.

Mr. Rouhani has pledged to follow a policy of moderation and ease tensions with the outside world. He has also vowed to improve an economy ravaged by international sanctions and mismanagement by empowering technocrats.

The core of Mr. Rouhani’s team includes figures whose academic pedigrees run through places such as California, Washington, Paris and London. Mr. Rouhani himself studied in Scotland, while Mr. Zarif is a U.S.-educated veteran diplomat with a doctorate in international law and policy from the University of Denver.

Mr. Rouhani said he hopes Mr. Zarif’s expertise and years of experience in dealing with Americans as Iran’s top U.N. envoy will help his government understand the American way of thinking. Mr. Zarif worked with Mr. Rouhani back when the President was Iran’s top nuclear negotiator from 2003 to 2005.

“Reconsidering foreign policy doesn’t mean a change in principles because principles remain unchanged,” Mr. Rouhani said. “But change in the methods, performance and tactics, which are the demands of the people, must be carried out.”

It remains unclear how much Mr. Rouhani’s team can influence Iranian policies and foster potential outreach diplomacy, such as direct talks with the U.S. or possible breakthroughs in wider negotiations over Tehran’s suspect nuclear program.

Nuclear policy remains under the control of the country’s top clerics. The West accuses the nuclear program of pursuing weapons technology, while Iran says it is for peaceful purposes.

Mr. Rouhani said Iran suffered from rhetoric used under Mr. Ahmadinejad and his government will distance from his predecessor’s slogans.


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