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Moderate Khatami confirmed as Iran's new president

Khatami August 3, 1997
Web posted at: 10:45 a.m. EDT (1445 GMT)

TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) -- Mohammad Khatami was confirmed as Iran's new president on Sunday and immediately called for cooperation in domestic affairs and peaceful coexistence with the world.

Khatami, a 54-year-old moderate cleric, was confirmed in the post by the country's supreme spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in a ceremony at a mosque next to the house of the late revolutionary patriarch Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Launching his presidency, Khatami said Iran's domestic problems called for "cooperation and coordination between the great scholars of this country." And addressing the people of Iran, Khatami said, "We need each and every person of this great nation, the women, the men, the youth. ..."

Khatami also addressed Iran's international relations, in what some analysts characterized as a conciliatory, rather than confrontational, speech.

"Iran is for peace and security and it has a message of spirituality for all the people of the world," he said. "Based on wisdom (Iran) will shake hands with the people of the world maintaining its Islamic dignity and national honor."

However, there was a veiled hint at the strained relations with the United States and Israel. "Because we want this for all of humanity, we oppose the high-handedness of certain big countries." Khatami said.

Khatami follows outgoing President Hashemi Rafsanjani, who has been made head of a policy advisory council. Rafsanjani, who was widely considered a moderate, too, said he would be a force in Khatami's government.

Khatami scored the biggest upset of Iran's 18-year revolution when he defeated conservative hard-liners, including parliamentary speaker Ali Akbar Nateq-Nouri, in the May presidential elections.

His election sweep was largely due to the wide support by women, young people and those intellectuals who oppose stricter Islamic rules in everyday life.

Khatami, a former minister of culture, is credited with reviving music and cinema after the 1979 Islamic revolution, and he helped lift the ban on women singing in public.

However, Iran watchers say Khatami will have to tread carefully in light of hard-line religious pressure, and will not have the power to scrap a social code that still bans dating and insists that women cover themselves from head to toe in public.


Khatami will formally be sworn in at the parliament on Monday. And that parliament will likely be his first real challenge, since the dominating hard-liners may well challenge his choice of ministers, or try to scuttle his policies, should they disagree with Khatami's priorities.

The new president also faces a challenge on the economic front. Unemployment stands at nearly 11 percent, and annual inflation is even higher than that. Much of this has to do with the fact that Iran is still feeling the long-term effects of its devastating war with Iraq in the 1980s.

Monday's swearing-in ceremony could be overshadowed by an ongoing dispute between Iran and the European Union. Both sides are said to be engaged in last-minute efforts to get EU ambassadors back to Tehran in time for the swearing-in ceremony.

EU countries except for Greece recalled their ambassadors from Tehran after a German court concluded in April that Iran's top leaders had ordered the 1992 assassination of four Iranian Kurdish dissidents in a restaurant in Berlin.

Iran has rejected involvement in the killings.

Iran is now insisting that the German ambassador should be the last to arrive back in Tehran, and it objects to a collective return of envoys on the same aircraft.

Correspondent Eric Olander, Reporter Shirzad Bozorgmehr and Reuters contributed to this report.

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