07/05/2013, 00.00
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For Hassan Rouhani, a strong government does not limit individual freedoms

As Iranians continue to wait for the release of moderate leaders Mousavi and Karroubi, Iran's newly elected president criticises the previous government's restrictions. For the people, Rouhani is primarily a bridge between moderates and the country's supreme leader.

Tehran (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Iran's new moderate president, Hassan Rouhani, spoke for the first time about freedom of thought and about honesty, stressing that "a government that limits the lives of people [. . .] is not a strong government." Similarly, in a not-so-veiled jab at restrictions imposed by his predecessor, Ahmadinejad, on the Internet and other media following unrest in 2009, the new president told fellow clergymen on Wednesday that "People demand honesty and people demand honest promises from the government,"

Elected on 17 June with 50.7 per cent of the vote, the new president is giving the Iranian people some hope for real, albeit slow change. In anticipation of his official inauguration (on 3 August), ordinary Iranians have not shied away from reminding him of the promises he made during the election campaign, especially in relation to the release of moderate leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, jailed in 2009 during the Green Wave protest movement, and in relation to greater cooperation with the international community over Iran's nuclear programme.

A few days after his election, Rouhani reassured his supporters that he would not forget his promises. When a man interrupted his press conference calling on the newly elected president to release Mousavi and Karroubi, he reiterated his commitment to the liberation of the two leaders, noting hoever that "Some issues need to be resolved ... but it takes time and patience".

In an article published on Al-Monitor, Mani Fardad, a pseudonym for a reporter based in Iran, said that people voted for Rouhani to get the release of opposition leaders and political prisoners arrested in 2009.

On the day of his victory, thousands of people took to the streets to Tehran shouting "free Mousavi and Karroubi." Still, for the article's author, people are aware that on many issues are not within Rouhani's power, but can only be decided by the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

M. Sajad, a reformist journalist, believes that Rouhani should resolve the house arrest of Mousavi and Karroubi "behind the scenes."

Talking to Al-Monitor, he said, "I expect that he would resolve the issue in negotiations with authorities without making it known to the public or media." The release can only come through confidence building between the people and the new leadership.

Another promise President Rouhani made during the election campaign was improved relations with the international community on nuclear talks.

After his first disappointing statements a few days after his victory, the president appeared to be taking a more moderate line.

In a live address on state TV on Saturday, Rouhani said that Iran was after "dialogue and interaction with others from an equal position, based on mutual respect and interests".

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