Hassan Rowhani held his first press conference since being elected as Iran’s new president and answered questions from Iranian and international reporters regarding his proposed policies on internal and foreign affairs.
On Monday his answers were surprising for all observers.
Of course the election of Rowhani as Iran’s new president will make some changes on the country’s methods in dealing with internal and international issues but it is unrealistic if one expects Rowhani a moderate cleric to make substantial changes on Iran’s policies.
As IransView’s Abdullah Almasi explained earlier Rowhani is not a real reformist and lacked the popularity of the Reformists’ main candidate Mohammad Reza Aref whose followers ended up unifying behind the previously Fundamentalist Rowhani.
Following Rowhani’s victory in Iran’s Presidential election, western leaders reacted positively and expressed hope that Rowhani would take Iran on a ‘different course.’
“The expectations of the international community with regard to Iran are significant, especially about its nuclear programme and its involvement in Syria, ” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in a statement shortly after Rowhani won the Iran’s election.
In the President-elect’s first press conference a reporter of France24 recalled the time that Mr. Rowhani as the Secretary of Iran’s National Security Council suspended Iran’s nuclear activities and asked whether he is ready to suspend nuclear enrichment again as a confidence building step. “That era is behind us,” Rowhani replied.
The decision of the Reformist government in 2004 (when Rowhani was Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator) to suspend all of Iran’s nuclear activities attracted a lot of criticism because the West failed to abide by its promises and to normalize Iran’s nuclear dossier.
In the last months of the Reformist government of Mohammad Khatami Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei ordered the reformist government to cancel the voluntary suspension of nuclear activities and later the Principalist Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would win the election by promising to reactivate Iran’s nuclear activities in his campaigns.
Now after 8 years of significant progress in Iran’s peacefull nuclear program, Hassan
Rowhani says a suspension of nuclear activities is a step backward.
“Our nuclear programme is completely transparent,” Mr Rowhani said on Monday in his presser.
He also condemned sanctions against Iran by saying “The sanctions are unfair and our (nuclear) activities are legal. These sanctions are illegal and only benefit Israel.”
On Iran’s stance toward Syria also Rowhani showed no change from the past.
“Our stance on Syria will never change,” Rowhani said.
“The final decision-maker about the fate of Syria is the Syrian nation, we oppose terrorism and a civil war and that other countries want to interfere in Syria’s internal affairs.”
Regarding Iran-US relations Rowhani also did not show a significant difference to the stance of Ayatollah Khamenei.
The issue of “Iran’s relations with the United States is a complicated and difficult one,” said Rowhani, adding “anyway we will not pursue any escalation of tensions.”
“Any talks with the United States should be based on mutual respect and interests as well as being on an equal footing,” said Rowhani repeating the Supreme Leader’s words regarding the issue.
The resumption of negotiations with the United States has a number of pre- conditions,” Rowhani said on Monday in his first press conference.
“U.S. officials should not interfere in Iran’s internal affairs as they have committed to in the  Algeria accord. They should recognize all Iranian rights including nuclear rights. And the United States should give up unilateral measures against Iran.”
Among the chief provisions of the Algeria accord between Iran and the US were that ‘The US would not intervene politically or militarily in Iranian internal affairs’ and ‘The US would remove a freeze on Iranian assets and trade sanctions on Iran’ both of which were violated by the US.
The surprise for internal and external observers was not only Rowhani’s alignment with Iran’s current foreign policy, but also that some hardline reformist media also failed to see a sign of a big change in internal affairs.
“I’m the president of all of Iranians,” Rowhani replied when a reformist reporter asked him to reward reformists who backed him in the presidential election.
“Firstly I appreciate all individual and parties who supported me in the election campaign but please don’t forget that I’m the president of all Iranians.”
Rowhani also refused to answer a couple of questions asked by reformist reporters about the two reformist leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi who are under house arrest since the post 2009 election unrest.
Rowhani’s reply to a reporter who insisted that Rowhani promise to invite Mohammad Reza Aref, the reformists’ candidate who quit the election race by request of Mr. Khatami was not clear and it seems Mr. Aref is still upset because the Reformist voters left him to support Rowhani. Aref said repeatedly in his election campaign that he does not recognize Rowhani as a reformist and he is the only candidate of the Reformists.
“I’ll invite all those qualified to cooperate with my government including Mr. Aref but it depends on Aref if he accepts the invitation, he may not be willing to be involved in my administration,” Rowhani said.