(Photo: Reuters/Fars News/Sina Shiri)
After the results of Iran's presidential election showed a landslide victory for Hassan Rouhani, a cleric and moderate politician, the White House said Saturday it respects the vote, congratulating the "courage" of Iranian voters in "making their voices heard." Washington also urged Tehran to "heed the will of the Iranian people."
"We respect the vote of the Iranian people and congratulate them for their participation in the political process, and their courage in making their voices heard," the White House said in a statement, following the victory of Rouhani over conservative hardliners eight years after the repressive rule of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
"It is our hope that the Iranian government will heed the will of the Iranian people and make responsible choices that create a better future for all Iranians," the statement said, adding, "Yesterday's election took place against the backdrop of a lack of transparency, censorship of the media, Internet, and text messages, and an intimidating security environment that limited freedom of expression and assembly."
Ahmadinejad became authoritarian and began to curtail civil liberties following mass protests, known as the Green Revolution, over his claimed victory in the 2009 elections that were believed to be rigged. Persecution of Christians and other religious minorities was also part of Ahmadinejad's attempt to tighten control over all aspects of people's lives in the face of domestic insecurity.
Rouhani is a supporter of the Green Revolution.
The White House praised the Iranian people for being "determined to act to shape their future" despite "these government obstacles and limitations."
Secretary of State John Kerry also issued a statement, saying Rouhani "pledged repeatedly during his campaign to restore and expand freedoms for all Iranians. In the months ahead, he has the opportunity to keep his promises to the Iranian people."
Rouhani, who was Iran's nuclear negotiator during the presidency of Mohammad Khatami before that of Ahmadinejad, said his victory was a victory of moderation.
"This victory is a victory of wisdom, a victory of moderation, a victory of growth and awareness and a victory of commitment over extremism and ill-temper," Rouhani told state television, pledging he will work for all Iranians, even the hardline "Principlists." "I warmly shake the hands of all moderates, reformists and Principlists," he said.
The White House said the United States was ready to "engage the Iranian government directly in order to reach a diplomatic solution that will fully address the international community's concerns about Iran's nuclear program."
Rouhani, a former commander of the Iranian air defenses, will not have much say in matters of national security, which is the domain of Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. However, being a member of the Assembly of Experts, which appoints or removes the supreme leader, Rouhani can influence the decision on appointing Khamenei's successors when the time comes.
Farsi news agency quoted Khamenei as saying, "The true winner of yesterday's election is the great nation of Iran that was able to take a firm step with God's help."
Rouhani, who was national security adviser for 13 years before Ahmadinejad's presidency, took more than 50 percent of the vote, and his nearest rival, Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, a conservative, got about 15 percent.
Rouhani is expected to take office in August.