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Hassan Rouhani gets supreme leader's approval as Iran's new president

August 03, 2013|By Ramin Mostaghim and Patrick J. McDonnell
  • In this image released by the Iranian supreme leader's office, outgoing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, left, delivers the official seal of approval of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, center, to hand to President-elect Hasan Rouhani, right, in an official endorsement ceremony, in Tehran on Saturday. An member of the supreme leader's office stands at second left.
In this image released by the Iranian supreme leader's office, outgoing… (Associated Press )

TEHRAN -- Hassan Rouhani became the seventh president of the Islamic Republic of Iran on Saturday, officially receiving the endorsement of the nation’s supreme leader at a formal ceremony here in the capital.

Rouhani, 64, a cleric considered a moderate pragmatist, replaced outgoing two-term President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was barred from seeking a third term by law. Rouhani was elected in June in a surprise landslide victory.

Rouhani’s formal inauguration and swearing-in are scheduled for Sunday, but Saturday marked the new president’s ascension to office.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei formally endorsed Rouhani as president during a nationally televised ceremony attended by most of Iran’s inner circle. Khamenei has the last say on matters of state in Iran's theocratic system.

Noticeably absent on Saturday was former President Mohammad Khatami, considered the leader of Iran’s so-called “reformist” bloc, which is severely at odds with conservative hard-liners who dominate the government. Khatami, viewed with extreme distrust by hard-liners, endorsed Rouhani’s candidacy.

The ex-president’s absence on Saturday is an indication of the difficult balancing task facing Rouhani, who galvanized reformist support in his electoral victory but must avoid alienating powerful conservative blocs.

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Special correspondent Mostaghim reported from Tehran. Staff writer McDonnell reported from Beirut.

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