* Rouhani calls for "reducing antagonism and aggression"
* Wants end to sanctions that increased under Ahmadinejad
* U.S. says is willing partner if Iran ready to engage
By Yeganeh Torbati and Marcus George
DUBAI, Aug 4 Iran and the United States
signalled a fresh will on Sunday to seek to end the dispute over
Tehran's nuclear programme after Hassan Rouhani was sworn in as
president and called for dialogue to reduce "antagonism and
Hopes for a diplomatic resolution increased with Rouhani's
win over conservative rivals in June, when voters replaced
hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with a cleric whose watchword is
"moderation" but who is still very much an Islamic Republic
"The only way for interaction with Iran is dialogue on an
equal footing, confidence-building and mutual respect as well as
reducing antagonism and aggression," Rouhani told parliament
after taking his oath of office.
"If you want the right response, don't speak with Iran in
the language of sanctions, speak in the language of respect," he
Within hours, the United States said it was ready to work
with Rouhani's government if it were serious about engagement.
"The inauguration of President Rouhani presents an
opportunity for Iran to act quickly to resolve the international
community's deep concerns over Iran's nuclear programme," White
House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement.
"Should this new government choose to engage substantively
and seriously to meet its international obligations and find a
peaceful solution to this issue, it will find a willing partner
in the United States."
Iran's critics say it has used previous nuclear negotiations
as a delaying tactic while continuing to develop nuclear
weapons-related technology - something Tehran denies.
Signalling both his wish to get straight down to work and a
likely willingness to engage with the United States, Rouhani
immediately presented a list of cabinet nominees to the
parliament speaker that included Iran's former ambassador to the
United Nations, Mohammad Javad Zarif, as foreign minister.
Parliament must approve the proposed ministers before they
can take office and the speaker said the assembly would review
the nominees in the next week.
Zarif is a respected diplomat involved in negotiations with
the United States since the 1980s and well known to top U.S.
officials including Vice President Joe Biden and Defense
Secretary Chuck Hagel.
"GULF OF MISPERCEPTIONS"
Western envoys familiar with Zarif have said his appointment
may be a sign of Rouhani's interest in breaking the deadlock
with the United States.
Ali Vaez, Iran analyst at the International Crisis Group,
said Zarif had unique skills that "allow him to bridge the great
gulf of misperceptions between Iran and the West."
"No one else is better suited to take on the grim but grand
task of ending Iran's isolation at this time of national peril,"
he told Reuters.
Any new overtures to the West would have to be approved by
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has maintained a staunchly
anti-Western stance since becoming Iran's supreme leader in
After eight years of Ahmadinejad's confrontational
government, under which the West tightened sanctions making
daily life tougher for normal Iranians, Khamenei is likely to
give Rouhani a chance to resolve the issue, but has publicly
expressed more scepticism of the chances of a solution.
Though less hard line than his predecessor, Rouhani has held
important military and security posts since the Islamic
revolution of 1979. He was head of the Supreme National Security
Council for 16 years and one of two personal representatives of
Khamenei on the same body for another eight years.
Rouhani did not name a candidate to head the Supreme
National Security Council. The person occupying that position is
usually also Iran's chief negotiator in its talks with world
powers over its nuclear programme.
Iranian news agencies last month said Rouhani would nominate
Mohammad Forouzandeh, a former Revolutionary Guard, defence
minister and member of Iran's Security Council, for the post.