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Iran: Hard-Line President-Elect Pledges 'Moderate' Government

Prague, 26 June 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Mahmud Ahmadinejad says his government will be one of moderation and peace. Ahmadinejad also says his country will defend its right to develop peaceful nuclear technology. He also said Iran does not need to reestablish formal diplomatic relations with the United States.

It was the first press conference by Ahmadinejad since election officials yesterday announced that he had won the second round of the country's presidential vote.

More than 500 journalists attended the gathering as the hard-line religious conservative pledged to have a moderate government after taking office in August:

"Without any doubt, the government that comes out of the will of the people will be a government of affection and moderation -- a government of friendship, a government of tolerance" Ahmadinejad said. "The government will not recognize false political borders. The government will serve all the people with different ideas, of different ethnicities and languages and tastes. The government belongs to all Iranians. It is a government of 70 million [people]."

Ahamdinejad also said that Iran has the right to develop peaceful nuclear technology. He said Iran will carry on with its nuclear programs:

"Based on the national interests of the Islamic republic of Iran -- and with emphasis on the right of the Iranian nation to peaceful nuclear technology -- we will continue negotiations," he said. "My colleagues are negotiating. But there should be mutual trust building. We will defend the right of the Iranian nation seriously. Today [you cannot find] anyone in Iran who will not stress the right to peaceful nuclear technology. This is the definite path of our people."

Ahmadinejad says Iran needs nuclear energy to generate electricity and for medical purposes. He said Iran's nuclear program is the result of the work of young Iranians.

Officials in Tehran deny accusations by the United States that Iran is secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons.

Earlier today Iran's Foreign Ministry said that Tehran's nuclear policies will not change under Ahmadinejad's presidency. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi said decisions about foreign policy are reached by consensus.

In Iran, the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has the last word on all state matters including nuclear policies.

Ahmadinejad is said to have the support of the supreme leader. In today's press conference, Ahmadinejad also said Iran does not need to establish formal diplomatic relations with the United States. Washington broke off formal relations in 1979 when students stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran -- taking 52 of the embassy staff hostage.

Ahmadinejad says Iran is ready to develop ties with any country that does not view Tehran as an enemy:

"We would like to develop relations based on justice and mutual respect with all countries and nations. The policy of the Islamic Republic [of Iran] regarding the United States has been announced many times. Our nation today is moving on the path to progress and elevation by believing in itself. And on this path, there is no significant need for [relations with] the United States," Ahmadinejad said.

When asked about concerns that human rights in Iran could deteriorate under his presidency, Ahmadinejad said that "liberty lies in the spirit of the Islamic Revolution."

The president-elect says Iranians have understood the meaning of freedom since the collapse of the regime of the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in 1979. He says Tehran also is concerned about human rights violations in different parts of the world -- including in Europe.

In Washington, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on 26 June that Ahmadinejad is not a friend of democracy and freedom.

"He is no friend of democracy; he is no friend of freedom," Rumsfeld said. "He is a person who is very much supportive of the current ayatollahs who are telling the people of that country how to live their lives. And my guess is that over time, the young people and the women will find him, as well as his masters, unacceptable."

Rumsfeld, speaking on American television, also said Ahmadinejad had been elected in what he called a "mock election," noting that more than 1,000 candidates were disqualified in advance of the voting.

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom also expressed concerns, saying the Iranian vote could not be judged as free or fair and that Ahmadinejad's election showed that Iran is adding more extremism rather than serious reforms and reconciliation.

See also:

Iran Says New President Won't Change Foreign Policy

Iran: A New Paradigm And New Math

For RFE/RL's full coverage of Iran's elections, see "Iran Votes 2005"
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    Golnaz Esfandiari

    Golnaz Esfandiari is a senior correspondent for RFE/RL focusing on Iran. She has reported from Afghanistan and Haiti and is one of the authors of The Farda Briefing newsletter. Her work has been cited by The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other major publications. Born and raised in Tehran, she is fluent in Persian, French, English, and Czech.