Setting the tone for his presidency, the man who has pledged to make Iran a powerful Islamic model has paid his respects at the tomb of the republic’s founder. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad praised the achievements of Ayatollah Khomeini who set up Iran’s system of clerical rule in 1979. But the new president struck a moderate tone at his first press conference, declaring that his country would pursue a foreign policy based on peaceful co-existence. He assured European countries he would continue nuclear talks but re-affirmed that Iran had a right to develop atomic energy for civilian purposes.
On relations with the US, he said Tehran did not particularly need diplomatic ties. On Iran’s streets, reactions to Ahmadinejad’s election have been mixed. “I’m not very optimistic about my country’s future,” said one man. “For eight years we have seen some reforms and now they will be rolled up like a Persian carpet. We will be turning the clock back.” “I don’t expect anything for myself,” a woman commented, “but I want a better future for my children. “I want them to go to university, get good jobs and live in a system without corruption.” But, regardless of Ahmadinejad’s ideology and the concerns he may elicit abroad, the bottom line for many Iranians is that he is their only hope of stamping out poverty and raising living standards.