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Iran's New Parliament Sworn In

A new crop of reformist legislators will strengthen the hand of Iranian President Hassan Rohani in Iran's parliament.

The new Iranian parliament that was formed from elections held in February and April has been sworn in at its opening session in Tehran.

The 290-member Islamic Consultative Assembly held its first meeting on May 28 with a fresh crop of reformist lawmakers who are expected to back President Hassan Rohani’s efforts to modernize Iran's economy and social policies.

Their victories ended the 12-year dominance of conservative hard-liners in the parliament.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei sent a message to the parliament opening, warning lawmakers to beware of "the schemes, charms, and impudently excessive demands" of Western powers.

He urged parliamentarians to be true to the ideals of the country’s 1979 Islamic revolution.

Rohani addressed the new legislature, saying Iran needs $30 billion to $50 billion in annual foreign investment in order to reach its target of 8 percent economic growth.

The new parliament is expected to choose a speaker and a presiding board early next week. Incumbent speaker Ali Larijani -- a conservative -- and reformist Mohammad Reza Aref are the leading candidates vying to become speaker.

Reformists associated with Rohani now hold 133 seats, while conservatives hold 125, according to an analysis conducted by the AFP news agency.

The 29 independent lawmakers -- three mandates are vacant after two elections were nullified and one elected member died in a car crash -- will play an important role in determining the tone of the new assembly.

Analysts say the shift in power will help advance Rohani's agenda of warmer relations with the West, increasing personal freedoms, and greater rights for women.

The new parliament includes a record 18 women, an achievement Rohani said made him "very happy."

The polls were the first political test for Rohani following the nuclear deal reached last year between Iran and world powers.

Iran curbed its nuclear program in exchange for the removal of crippling economic sanctions. But Tehran is eager to be integrated into the world economy after years of isolation and has complained about how long it is taking for the accord's economic benefits to be felt.

In his speech to lawmakers, Rohani praised Larijani for supporting the nuclear pact and called for greater "interaction" between parliament and the government to "solve the problems and crises of the country."

Rohani, who came to power in a landslide victory in 2013, is eager to improve economic conditions ahead of presidential polls in May 2017. He is expected to seek reelection.

With reporting by dpa, AFP, and
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