Lawyer, cleric, academic. Iran’s new president Hassan Rohani was playing the role of the diplomat as he met his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran on Tuesday.
The pair discussed the economic and political problems the country faces, especially after years of sanctions imposed by the West over Iran’s nuclear stance.
“The next government aims to make use of experiences of all past governments, and God willing, ease the problems that people are facing,” declared Rohani.
One test of Rohani’s moderate credentials will be whether Mirhossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi are released. Both were placed under house arrest following protests after the disputed elections in 2009. A press conference was cut short on Monday after pro-Mousavi slogans were shouted across the room.
Putting on his old nuclear negotiator cap, he earlier pledged transparency over the country’s nuclear programme, but noted that any suspension of uranium enrichment was out of the question.
Euronews spoke with Hossein Mousavian, a former Iranian diplomat who worked alongside Rohani on the nuclear issue.
Nima Ghadakpour, euronews: “You worked with Rohani for years. As president, do you think he’ll deliver on the hopes he has raised among his supporters?”
Hossein Mousavian: “I am certain the power of the presidency, which is, constitutionally, the second-highest in the country, will enable him to do that. If we listen to the policy he committed to during the presidential campaigning, and based on what I know from having worked with him for 30 years, I can tell you that he has the capacity to resolve a major part of the internal and international problems with which Iran is confronted today.”
euronews: “On foreign policy: Barack Obama voiced optimism when Rohani was elected. Do you believe Rohani will be able to open up and normalise relations with the United States?”
Mousavian: “That is not something that Rohani can do on his own. At least half of the responsibility lies with the US, and I believe even more than that. According to Iran’s constitution, it is the Supreme Leader who takes the final decision, and he showed his intentions clearly on this subject a few months ago. He said that although he was not very optimistic, if the government wanted to open negotiations with Washington, he wouldn’t stop it.”
euronews: “In your opinion, did the Supreme Leader send the international community a message through this election?”
Mousavian: “The leader’s policy towards the US hasn’t changed since the presidencies of Rafsanjani, Khatami and even Ahmadinejad. The leader’s policy is first based on mutual respect, and against interference in internal affairs. If these conditions are met, the leader is ready to talk. That’s been his policy since he rose to power.”
euronews: “On Syria: Rohani said yesterday at his press conference that the only way to solve that crisis is through the will of the people. At the same time, Jack Straw, the British former foreign minister, said that Rohani’s election raised new hope for that region. What do you think?”
Mousavian: “The key to the Syrian crisis, as Rohani says, is the will of the Syrian people. That principle could be a primary principle both for the international community to follow and for regional powers in resolving the Syrian problem.”
euronews: “But how can the will of the people prevail in Syria?”
Mousavian: “I say that, in order for it to triumph, as Rohani said, an international conference must be organised, with the 5+1 powers in the UN Security Council and regional powers, who would decide on the putting into place of free elections, under United Nations monitoring, so that the Syrian people decide on the future of their country. That is the best, most pragmatic solution in solving the Syrian problem.”