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Rouhani pledges to protect citizens' rights - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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In this photo released by the official website of the office of Iranian President-elect Hasan Rouhani, Rouhani waves as he leaves a conference in Tehran, Iran, Saturday, June 29, 2013. (AP Photo/Office of the President-elect, Hojjat Sepahvand)

In this photo released by the official website of the office of Iranian President-elect Hasan Rouhani, Rouhani waves as he leaves a conference in Tehran, Iran, Saturday, June 29, 2013. (AP Photo/Office of the President-elect, Hojjat Sepahvand)

London, Asharq Al-Awsat—In a speech among a group of influential clerics on Wednesday, Iran’s president-elect Hassan Rohani said that his government will aim to ensure the people’s security and livelihood and protect their rights, in what has been widely interpreted as a pledge to uphold civil liberties.

Rouhani delivered a carefully prepared speech in which he outlined his vision for government after being sworn into office on August 3. “To have a strong and capable government it does not mean taking control of all affairs, put restriction on people and interfere in their private lives,” he said.

The incoming president also hinted that he was in favor of more transparency in government, saying: “A government can show its strength through increasing popular trust . . . [my administration]shall talk to people and respond to their needs and questions, as [the] Iranian people will withstand all problems if they find out that the path that government has chosen is right.”

The scale of challenges that Rouhani’s government is set to face is enormous both in terms of economic hardship and increasing constraints affecting Iran’s regional and international relationships.

Consequently, the president-elect was very careful not to raise hopes too far, stressing that solving Iran’s problems would take years, rather than months.

On the topic of the relationship between the public and the Iranian religious hierarchy, Rouhani—himself a mid-ranking member of the Shi’a clergy—said that the clerics were the voice of the people and could act as intermediaries between people and the government.

Despite his decisive victory in the first round of Iran’s recent presidential election, Rouhani’s position is a delicate one. Elected with strong support from the moderate and reformist segments of Iranian society, he must nevertheless strike a balance between the demands of this constituency and powerful conservative elements in the corridors of power, elements that he cannot afford to alienate given the overall control of Iran’s foreign and domestic policy by the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Nonetheless, in a coded message to Iran’s conservative circles, Rouhani said: “Iran’s Islamic society is not a dogmatic society where only one voice can be heard,” and that “there should be consultation, interaction, dialogue and criticism in Iran’s Islamic society.”

Rouhani’s attempts to rally much-needed support from Iran’s powerful conservatives, is concurrent with the US intensifying its unilateral sanctions on Iran. On July 1, another round of sanctions on Iran was implemented, preventing shipping companies from doing business with Iran, expect for cargoes of food and medicine.

In a letter sent to the White House three days before the latest round of sanctions put in place, 43 members of the US House of Representatives called on President Barack Obama to continue implementing a strict sanctions regime on Iran over its nuclear program.

Iran’s presidential election has done “nothing to suggest a reversal of Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons capacity,” the letter said.

The new sanctions, which came into effect on July 1, target trade with Iran’s shipping and automobile sectors, the sale of precious metals to Iran and handling of its currency, in a further attempt to force Tehran to curb its nuclear activities.

“We have no doubt that sanctions are a broken policy and we are surprised about why the American government and other governments who take part in these sanctions continually repeat a mistaken and failed policy,” Press TV’s website quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Araqchi as saying on Monday.

“Removing sanctions would be considered as a confidence-building measure and can assist in a resolution of the issue but increasing sanctions would have no result, apart from making the issue more complex and harder to resolve,” the spokesman added.