BEIRUT -- The election of
Rowhani, a soft-spoken, 64-year old bespectacled and turbaned cleric, will hold his first press conference on Monday, the Iranian Student News Agency (ISNA) reported. His victory was featured prominently Sunday in many Arab newspapers.
“Rowhani, the reformists' candidate, is president of Iran,” the
"Can Rowhani be another Khatami?" asked the English-language Saudi Gazette, referring to ex-Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, whose administration was relatively open to the world.
Many speculated on whether Rowhani would be able to mend ties with Sunni Gulf nations, who have strained relations with Shiite Iran, part of a broader conflict between the two branches of Islam.
Leaders from Gulf Arab monarchies appeared quick to congratulate Rowhani. These included
“Wishing prosperity to the people of the brotherly Islamic Republic of Iran,” Saudi
The Saudi comment followed similar missives from other Gulf states.
"We look forward to working together for the good of this region," the United Arab Emirates President
The rulers of
A few days before the election, Hassan Rowhani told Asharq Al-Awsat, the London-based newspaper, that forging better relations with neighbors would be one of his top priorities.
"If elected, I will engage closely in diplomatic interaction and cooperation with all countries in the region to remove the clouds of misunderstanding and rivalry," Rowhani wrote in an email interview.
The congratulatory messages “seemed to indicate an earnest desire to start a new chapter" in relations between Iran and the Sunni Gulf nations, wrote Bahrain-based journalist Habib Toumi, in the English-language daily Gulf News.
that Rowhani “can change history by taking bold steps on regional issues.”
Iran’s continued support of Syrian President
The deep strains about Syria were evident in commentary Sunday in Egypt's Al-Ahram newspaper.
"Analysts see that the official Iranian stance on the Syria is ... completely biased toward the Syrian regime," wrote columnist Mahmoud Noby, warning of the possibility of a wider war that "everyone in the region will have to pay the price for."
In Lebanon, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah sent a cable to Rowhani congratulating him on the victory and saying he "revived the hopes" of Iranians.
The reactions were less enthusiastic in
"Regarding the results of the elections in Iran, let us not delude ourselves," Netanyahu said in remarks at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting. "The international community must not become caught up in wishes and be tempted to relax the pressure on Iran to stop its nuclear program."
Israeli opposition chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich, however, expressed careful optimism about Rowhani's victory — while stressing Israel must remain "strong" and ready on the issue of Iran.
"The results of Iranian elections attest the genuine, mass desire of the Iranian nation for change," Yachimovich said in a statement. "The same way none of the experts or politicians predicted Rowhani's victory 24 hours ago, so should we refrain from analyzing tomorrow based on yesterday's assessments."