'Moderate' Rouhani Takes Over as Iran's President
Hassan Rouhani has officially replaced Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president of Iran.
Rouhani's election was endorsed on Saturday by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei at a ceremony in the capital, Tehran.
He won the presidential poll in June, promising to reform and to put an end to Iran's international isolation.
The ceremony marks the handover of power, but his public inauguration does not take place until Sunday, reported the BBC.
Speaking at the ceremony, Rouhani was quoted by the BBC as having said, ''I have assumed this responsibility with the support of those people who want change, who want a better life, away from corruption, poverty and discrimination, people who want more respect and dignity, and hope in a secure future."
He has the support of Iran's reform movement, which wants the new president to release political prisoners and have international sanctions lifted.
Rouhani, who has been described as a “moderate”, called Israel an "old wound" that "should be removed," in comments to reporters published on Friday.
Iran's semi-official ISNA news agency said Rouhani spoke after taking part in an annual “Al Quds Day” rally in Tehran.
It quoted Rouhani as saying, "The Zionist regime has been a wound on the body of the Islamic world for years and the wound should be removed."
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu responded to Rouhani's remarks, saying that his “true face has been revealed earlier than expected. Even if they will now rush to deny his remarks, this is what the man thinks and this is the plan of the Iranian regime."
Official Iranian media later claimed that the president-elect’s remarks were distorted.
According to PressTV, Hassan Rouhani had said “that there's been a wound for years on the body of the Muslim world under the shadow of the occupation of the holy land of Palestine and the beloved [city of] al-Quds.”
The news channel claimed that Rouhani had said that the Iranian Quds Day was “a reminder that Muslims will never forget their historic right to resist oppression and aggression.”
“It was wrongly reported that Rouhani had called Israel a wound that must be cleansed,” claimed PressTV, adding that the president-elect “made no mention of Israel’s removal in his interview.”
Israel has warned that Rouhani may be a wolf in sheep’s clothing and would take advantage of any relief on sanctions to continue his country’s nuclear program.
International Relations Minister Yuval Steinitz said in an interview last week that Rouhani had “cheated” the West when he led negotiations over the nuclear program a decade ago.
“He [Rouhani] is cunning, he’s charming and he will smile all the way to the bomb unless the Western world will do everything necessary to stop him,” warned Steinitz.