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[Newsmaker] Reformist’s win in Iran boosts hopes

The election of Hassan Rowhani as Iran’s new president is raising cautious optimism for a diplomatic solution to the disputes over its suspected nuclear programs and improved ties with the U.S. and the West.

During the campaign the 64-year-old moderate cleric pledged to seek “constructive interaction with the world.”

“A new opportunity has been created ... for those who truly respect democracy, interaction and free dialogue,” he said in his first speech after his victory was confirmed Friday. 
Hassan Rowhani. ( AFP-Yonhap News)
Hassan Rowhani. ( AFP-Yonhap News)

He will officially take office on Aug. 3.

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has the final say on pivotal issues including foreign and defense policy. But reform-minded Rowhani still has room to make changes on economy, education, social issues and possibly foreign policies partly, pundits said.

People’s hopes for reforms were behind his unexpected victory in the first round of the vote.

“Though hard-liners remain in control of key aspects of Iran’s political system, the centrists and reformists have proven that even when the cards are stacked against them, they can still prevail due to their support among the population,” Trita Parsi of the National Iranian American Council said.

The new leader faces tough tasks on its sanction-damaged economy, faltered by friction with the West over the nuclear program.

The U.S. and Europe imposed sanctions on Iran’s oil and financial institutions over the suspicion while Tehran insisted that the country only seeks nuclear reactors for energy and medical applications.

Iran’s currency, the rial, has lost half its foreign exchange value in the past year, driving prices of food and consumer goods sharply higher. The unemployment rate rose to over 12 percent in the last two years.

By Park Han-na and news reports
(hnpark@heraldcorp.com)
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