press trust of india
Teheran, 4 August
Hassan Rouhani, a moderate cleric who was a surprise winner in the recent elections, took oath today as Iran’s seventh President at a ceremony attended by a galaxy of world leaders, including Hamid Ansari, Vice-President of India, with which he has pledged to expand ties.
The 64-year-old former nuclear negotiator, who has committed himself to greater international engagement for Iran which is battling sanctions over its nuclear programme, was administered the oath in Milli Majlis, the Iranian parliament.
Mr Rouhani was officially endorsed by the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei Khamenei yesterday for a four-year term.
“The country needs a national determination to keep its distance from extremism and needs to concentrate on the rule of law,” Khamenei had said, endorsing the moderate cleric. Soon after his victory in the June Presidential polls, Rouhani pledged to expand relations with India calling it his foreign policy priority. He visited India in 2002. Reflecting warm bilateral ties, Mr Ansari flew into the Iranaian capital by a special plane to represent India at the ceremony.
Mr Ansari was earlier India’s Ambassador to Iran.
India’s representation was upgraded after earlier plans for External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid to attend were dropped.
Mr Rouhani, who succeeds hardliner Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, had already stoked a controversy when he had reportedly said that Israel is a “wound” on the Muslim world “and needs to be removed”. But the remarks were later denied by Iran’s state-run TV.
Apart from Mr Ansari, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai along with Iraq’s Vice-President Khazir al-Khazai and Syrian Premier Wael al-Halqi also attended the ceremony.