Rouhani officially takes office as Iran’s president

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TEHRAN: Moderate cleric Hassan Rouhani officially took office on Saturday after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei endorsed him.

Khamenei kissed Rouhani on the cheek and the new president kissed the leader on his lapel during a ceremony in Tehran.

The start of Rouhani’s presidency brings an end to Ahmadinejad’s eight years in office during which Iran came under wide-ranging United Nations, U.S. and European Union sanctions over its alleged nuclear programme, putting enormous pressure on the economy.

Rouhani’s resounding election win in June has increased hopes of a negotiated end to the dispute over Iran’s nuclear programme, which could avert a potential new war in the Middle East.

Rouhani will face huge tasks in office, including combating inflation he put last month at 42 percent, reducing high levels of unemployment and bridging the political divisions between conservative, moderate and reformist factions.

When he registered for the 2013 presidential election, he pledged to prepare a civil rights charter, restore the economy and repair relationships with the West.

But his first challenge will be persuading parliament to approve the candidates he has chosen for cabinet positions, which he is expected to introduce on Sunday during his public inauguration.

“Rouhani will certainly appoint more competent men and women to key economic ministries and institutions. He will also follow saner economic policies,” said Shaul Bakhash, an Iran historian at George Mason University in Virginia.

At his first press conference as president-elect, Rouhani set three conditions for talks with the United States:

Americans should explicitly say that they will never interfere in Iran’s domestic affairs … should acknowledge all our undeniable rights and … set aside unilateral and bullying policies.

According to Analyst Stefen Kinzer of Guardian newspaper these are three ways of expressing the same fear, which grips Iranians across political and social lines: that the outside world is determined to control Iran, limit Iran’s growth and prevent Iran from fulfilling its national potential.

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