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World powers greet Rohani win with cautious optimism


Cautiously positive reactions emerged from international governments Saturday following the victory of moderate cleric candidate Hassan Rohani in Iran's presidential election as Rohani supporters welcomed the dawning of a new era.


Several key international governments on Saturday acknowledged Hassan Rohani’s election as Iran’s next president and looked ahead to establishing a relationship with him, as jubilant supporters took to the streets of Tehran to celebrate the dawning of a new era.

As soon as the moderate cleric’s victory was confirmed, a thousand or so people came together in the centre of the Iranian capital to celebrate. They held aloft portraits of Rohani and chanted slogans of support for him. FRANCE 24’s correspondent on the ground in Tehran, Pascale Bourgaux, reported “cries of joy” and “scenes of jubilation.”

US praise for Iranian votes

Speaking for the administration of President Barack Obama, White House spokesman Jay Carney said the US congratulated Iranians for their courage in voting. Iranians were determined to make their voices heard despite the limitations the ruling government imposed on the political process, Carney added.

The stunning surge in Friday’s election behind Rohani, a former nuclear negotiator, was perceived by supporters as a rebuke to hard-line policies that have left Iran diplomatically and economically isolated.

“‘It is our hope that the Iranian government will heed the will of the Iranian people and make responsible choices that create a better future for all Iranians,” Carney said.

The US is still willing to engage Tehran directly to find a diplomatic solution to concerns about Iran’s nuclear program, he added.

France, Britain

France and Britain also had some positive comments, signaling their willingness to work with Rohani and looking ahead to a potential improvement in ties.

France’s foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, said he is “ready to work” with Iran’s new president-elect, notably on the question of the country’s controversial nuclear programme, and also on the country’s involvement in Syria’s ongoing crisis.

“The international community’s expectations with regard to Iran are strong,” he said, also praising the Iranian people’s “unshakeable aspiration to democracy”.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the UK Foreign Office urged Rohani to “use the opportunity to set Iran on a different course for the future.”

That, the spokesperson said, would entail “addressing international concerns about Iran’s nuclear programme, taking forward a constructive relationship with the international community, and improving the political and human rights situation for the people of Iran.‪”

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei sent his congratulations to “the people and the elected president”. Outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also sent a message of congratulation.

Just before the official announcement of Rohani’s victory, his supporters, including dozens of youths, already had begun to assemble at his campaign headquarters shouting slogans such as “long live reform, long live Rohani”. They also chanted “goodbye” to Ahmadinejad.

Israel strikes a cautious note

Israel, however, was more sceptical about the prospects for a real change of course. The country, whose destruction Ammadinejad had advocated, fiercely opposes Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

“Iran’s nuclear programme has so far been determined by Khamenei, and not by Iran’s president,” the foreign ministry said in a statement following Rohani’s victory.

Earlier Saturday, Israeli public radio reported on that Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon wants tougher sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme regardless of who is elected as its new president. Striking a similar note, US Secretary of State John Kerry said last month he wasn’t optimistic that the election would produce any change in Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Rohani’s main rivals for the presidency, Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf and the nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili recognized their defeat and congratulated the winner.

Syrian National Coalition

Meanwile, the key opposition Syrian National Coalition called on Iran’s president-elect to reconsider the country’s position on the conflict there and to “rectify the mistakes” it believes Iran has made.

“For more than two years of the Syrian revolution, the Iranian authorities have stood against the aspirations of the Syrian people by continuing to support the criminal Assad regime politically, militarily and economically,” the Coalition said.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

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