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Profile: Iranian President-Elect Hassan Rohani

  • RFE/RL

Former top nuclear negotiator Hassan Rohani addresses a ceremony in Tehran in April where he announced his candidacy for president.

Former top nuclear negotiator Hassan Rohani addresses a ceremony in Tehran in April where he announced his candidacy for president.

Hassan Rohani emerged victorious in Iran's 2013 election campaign, going from also-ran to president-elect in a few short weeks.

The 64-year-old cleric is considered a relative moderate, and is best known abroad for his role as Iran's top nuclear negotiator from 2003 to 2005. But he has a long resume of accomplishments as an academic, military commander, longtime parliament deputy, and holder of various high-ranking government posts.

He was born in Sorkheh, a city in Iran's northern Semnan Province, in 1948. During the election campaign Rohani described growing up in a "religious and revolutionary" family. Having to pay for his own education, he said, taught him to "stand on his own feet."

He began his seminary education in 1960 in Semnan, before moving on to Qom. Later, he studied law at Tehran University. During a prerecorded televised address to the nation on May 28, Rohani claimed to have received a master's degree and Ph.D. "abroad." Earlier claims that he was educated at Glasgow University have come under scrutiny by the website Iran Election Watch.

Following Iran's Islamic Revolution in 1979, Rohani entered the Majlis, Iran's parliament, and served five consecutive terms until leaving in 2000. Over the course of his time in parliament he held the positions of first deputy speaker, Defense Committee chairman, and Foreign Relations Committee chairman.

Quotes from Hassan Rohani's time as Iran's nuclear negotiator:

"Iran offered a proposal on this issue in the month of March and the three European states promised to propose a comprehensive plan in June. Iran has told the three European states that their plan must include an article that allows for Iran to produce nuclear fuel domestically." (Sharq Online; June 2005)

"Iran is opposed to any sort of weapons of mass destruction, and in addition to that, possession of any kind of these weapons is against the religious and ethical principles that we follow." (Sharq Online, June 2005.)

"I don't predict that a war would be waged if Iran [resumes] enrichment, but if we try to solve the problem undiplomatically, we will face problems." (Iranian Students News Agency; March 2005)

"We have been able to frustrate the Americans during nuclear negotiations." (Iranian Students News Agency; March 2005)

"The Islamic Republic of Iran respects the NPT [Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty]. The Islamic republic has definitely no plans to withdraw from the NPT. The Islamic Republic of Iran respects the Safeguard Agreement and is ready to cooperate with the agency [International Atomic Energy Agency] within the framework of the Safeguard Agreement. The Islamic Republic of Iran will continue with the implementation of the Additional Protocol." (Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran Radio; June 2004)
During the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, Rohani headed a regional command post and later was commander of National Air Defense. After the war, he began his long term as secretary of the Supreme National Security Council. During his presidential election campaign he highlighted his close relations with Supreme Leaders Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

His work as Supreme National Security Council secretary, a position he held from 1989 to 2005, also meant he had a close working relationship with Presidents Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami.

Compromising Nuclear Negotiator

In 2003, Rohani became Iran's chief nuclear negotiator and held the post until the man he now replaces, Mahmud Ahmadinejad, was elected president in 2005. The course of nuclear negotiations adopted under Ahmadinejad and the current top negotiator, presidential candidate Said Jalili, was a source of heated exchanges during the presidential debates.

Rohani was openly critical of Jalili for taking an uncompromising approach to the West that has led to international sanctions against Iran. While Rohani served as nuclear negotiator, he once offered in negotiations with European diplomats to maintain the suspension of uranium enrichment and expressed readiness to stop manufacturing centrifuge equipment as a sign of goodwill and to prepare the ground for greater cooperation. The move was seen by his critics at home as a retreat.

Most recently Rohani has represented Tehran Province in the Assembly of Experts, which oversees the performance of the supreme leader.

Unlocking Solutions For Iran

Rohani adopted the key as his campaign symbol -- in what he called "a direct reference to the fact that the situation is locked" -- and often referred to his "Government of Deliberation and Hope."

He has called for improved foreign relations, and has pointed to Iran's immense material and physical resources as a way out of its economic crisis, which he blames on "individual decision-making, without consultation." Remedies, he says, can be found in tourism and greater involvement of the private sector in manufacturing.

Rohani has also supported greater freedom of expression and has pledged to free political prisoners.

The main achievements of his career, as noted by Rohani during his final televised campaign address, include Iran's "active impartiality" during the Gulf War, a "security pact" with Saudi Arabia under President Khatami, and Iran's "reasonable position" following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.


Written by RFE/RL correspondent Michael Scollon, based on reporting by RFE/RL, Vision of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Sharq Online, and IRNA
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