In his first press conference after winning the Presidency, Hassan Rouhani navigated carefully amid questions on the economy, politics, foreign policy, and the fate of detained opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi.
Rouhani, who claimed a surprising first-round majority in Friday’s ballot, immediately set out the economy as the priority issue. His emphasis was not new policy, however, but on management to increase production and investment and to ease inflation by reducing liquidity in the market. In his most telling phrase, commenting on the fate of those in the Ahmadinejad Government, he said, “I will retain those who are good managers, but those who have not bought a ticket cannot ride the bus.”
On foreign policy, Rouhani showed openness to talks with the US, but he said out conditions to be met: 1) Washington’s promise not to interfere in Iran’s internal affairs; 2) recognition of Tehran’s nuclear rights; and 3) and an end to the “unilateral and bullying policies” of sanctions.
The surprise of the conference came with the introduction of the name of Mir Hossein Mousavi, the candidate in the disputed 2009 Presidential election who has been held under strict house arrest — with wife, activist Zahra Rahnavard, and fellow 2009 candidate Mehdi Karroubi — since February 2011.
An audience member shouted, “Mousavi must be here!”, and a reporter from the reformist newspaper Etemaad asked when the former Prime Minister will be released.
Rouhani’s careful reply? “Some issues need to be resolved but that I am sure this will happen in time.”
Tehran Ups Reconstruction Projects In Syria As Damascus Signs Agreements on Energy, Medicine, Food
Iran is to step up its reconstruction efforts in Syria, signing agreements on Monday to rebuild electricity stations destroyed in the 27-month conflict, according to Syrian State media.
Ahead of Ramadan, Tehran has also pledged to send food, medicine, medical equipment and oil products to the Syrian government.
The Iranian Foreign Minister’s Special Advisor for Economic Affairs, Hassan Kazemi-Qomi — formerly Tehran’s Ambassador to Iraq — said that in addition to agreements over health, oil, electricit,y and foodstuffs, Tehran will provide the Assad regime with a $3.5 billion credit line.
The announcement comes after Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi said Sunday that Damascus had exempted Iranian products from customs duty, to facilitate the flow of Iranian goods into Syria.
Iran has said that it plans to carry out a range of development projects in Syria, including the building of flour mills as well as the construction and reconstruction of electricity power plants.
Tehran’s reconstruction projects — facilitated in part by the Revolutionary Guards — seek to bolster the Assad regime at a critical time as temperatures rise this summer, electricity outages become more and more common, and food shortages grow.
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