The first comments of President-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad went down well with Iran's press Monday, with independent and pro-reform newspapers highlighting his pledge to lead a "government of peace and moderation" and hard-line journals emphasizing his promise to follow the principles of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, reports AP.
In his opening statement, he promised to shun extremism and cobble together a moderate regime.
Still, Ahmadinejad’s views can give concern to the United States and Europe. The President-elect warned Iran's European negotiators that building trust would require a mutual effort. He rebuked a European Union commissioner who spoke of freezing dialogue with Iran, saying Europe "cannot talk to the Iranian nation in such an arrogant manner." Asked about relations with the United States, Ahmadinejad said Iran "is taking the path of progress based on self-reliance. It doesn't need the United States significantly on this path."
The day before U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld said Sunday that Ahmadinejad was "no friend of democracy" and dismissed the vote as a "mock election."
A key concern for the United States is Iran's 20-year-old nuclear program, revealed in 2002.
The United States alleges the program is aimed at building atomic weapons. Iran insists it is only interested in generating electricity. Uranium enriched to low levels has energy uses, while highly enriched uranium can be used in bombs.
Iran suspended all uranium enrichment-related activities in November to avoid possible sanctions from the U.N. Security Council, but it said all along the suspension was temporary. France, Britain and Germany have offered economic incentives in hopes of persuading Iran to permanently halt enrichment.
"Iran's peaceful technology is the outcome of the scientific achievements of Iran's youth," Ahmadinejad said. "We need the peaceful nuclear technology for energy, medical and agricultural purposes and our scientific progress. We will continue this." According to BusinessWeek, Ahmadinejad is suspicious of outsiders, capitalists, and technocrats, and his victory increases the risk of confrontation with the U.S. and the West on everything from the Islamic Republic's nuclear program to neighboring Iraq. The election's winner could also deal an economic setback to the country, which badly needs private investment and foreign technology and knowhow. Economic growth, which has been close to 8% annually over the last two years, has recently slowed to the 5% range as businesses worried about the upcoming election as well as growing tension with America.
BusinessWeek predicts, that Ahmadinejad's election could well be a watershed in Iranian politics. He is close to the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, and his victory means the main levers of government - the Presidency, the parliament, the judiciary, and the powerful Council of Guardians - are in the hands of the conservatives, who have seen a resurgence in the last few years.