Western attention to President Rouhani’s first news conference will be on his message about nuclear talks, particularly with the US — we offer an analysis, “Rouhani to Obama — ‘Get Serious About Nuclear Talks’”.
However, the new President’s initial emphasis on Tuesday was on Iran’s economic situation. He declared that “a plan has been prepared for four years”, and no time will be lost in implementing it: “Tomorrow we will talk on subsidies”, a reference to former President Ahmadinejad’s troubled flagship program of subsidy cuts.
That emphasis on the economy is unsuprising, given Rouhani’s approach of declaring Iran’s pressing problems — he said last month that inflation was now at 42%, and repeated yesterday that rising prices and unemployment were the legacy of the Ahmadinejad Government.
What was just as interesting, and perhaps unexpected, was a brief and telling exchange over political prisoners.
A reporter for the reformist newspaper Shargh asked the President what he would do to fulfil campaign promises about freeing political prisoners, including the detained opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi.
Rouhani’s reply was cautious, to say the least: “I keep track of the issue of political prisoners in cooperation with legislative and Judiciary powers.”
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