New Iranian leader Rouhani assails sanctions, demands 'respect'

New Iranian leader Rouhani assails sanctions, demands 'respect'
Iran's new President Hassan Rouhani greets the crowd after his swearing in at the parliament in Tehran on Sunday. (Ebrahim Noroozi / Associated Press)

TEHRAN — Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, said Sunday that his nation would not be intimidated by threats and demanded “respect” from the global community.

"If you want the right response, it should not be through the language of sanctions, it should be through the language of discourse and respect," Rouhani said in a pointed message to outside nations during his official swearing in at the parliament here. "Iran does not pursue war."


Rouhani, 64, a moderate cleric who was a surprise victor in June's elections, officially assumed office on Saturday but took the formal oath of office Sunday for his four-year term. The swearing-in took place in the hall of parliament, before lawmakers, government insiders and foreign dignitaries.

The president's tone was conciliatory, but he stressed that Iran sought "dialogue," not sanctions and "antagonism" from global powers.

[Updated 11:32 a.m. Aug. 4:

As Iran's new president took office, the

White House

put out a conciliatory statement congratulating the Iranian people “for making their voices heard during Iran’s election.”

Rouhani’s inauguration, the White House said, “represents an opportunity for Iran to act quickly to resolve the international community’s deep concerns over Iran’s nuclear program.” The Obama administration is still committed to a "peaceful" settlement if Tehran is willing to meet its “obligations,” the White House said.

"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," the White House said.]

In his wide-ranging speech, Rouhani again stressed his oft-repeated themes of "moderation" and "prudence," a sharp departure from the provocative style of his predecessor, two-term President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was prevented by term limits from running again. The new president also pledged to work to improve civil rights for Iranian minorities and for women and to make Iran a "meritocracy," curbing corruption.

"The people want to live better, to feel dignified and to enjoy benefits from a stable life," said Rouhani, who vowed to "restore hope" to fellow citizens.

Even before Rouhani assumed office, the U.S. Congress moved to tighten economic sanctions with an eye toward cutting off much of Iran’s trade in oil, its principal export. U.S.-led sanctions against Iran are already viewed as some of the harshest ever imposed and have contributed to Iran’s economic tailspin. The nation suffers from high unemployment and rising inflation, causing considerable despair, especially among highly educated young people who face reduced opportunities.

Since his election, Rouhani has said that the economic outlook is much more dire than he had believed. The new president has pledged to work to remove the "brutal" sanctions regime.

The U.S.-led sanctions are tied to Iran’s controversial nuclear program, which Tehran says is strictly for peaceful purposes. U.S. officials suspect Iran may be seeking nuclear weapons capability. Rouhani, a former chief Iranian atomic negotiator, has vowed greater openness about the country’s nuclear research efforts. He did not mention the nuclear program directly in his swearing-in discourse, but the issue provided a backdrop to the sanctions discussion.

Inside Iran, hard-liners have pointed to the congressional move to tighten sanctions as an indication that Washington is not interested in negotiation on the nuclear issue. The Obama administration says it seeks a negotiated settlement to the nuclear dispute, but has not ruled out an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.


As a self-described moderate, Rouhani must walk a fine balance between conservative hard-liners who hold the reins of power and so-called "reformists" who helped put him in office and back opening up the system to change and improved international relations.

During Sunday’s swearing-in ceremony, President Rouhani also named his top staff and nominations for his Cabinet. Most nominees were well-known figures from previous governments, many of them Western-educated. For the post of foreign minister, Rouhani nominated Mohammad Javad Zariv, a U.S.-educated former ambassador to the United Nations who is viewed as a supporter of reconciliation with the West. The Parliament must approve ministerial nominations.


Special correspondent Mostaghim reported from Tehran and staff writer McDonnell from Beirut.