Iran’s new president still Khamenei-approved, Israeli leaders say

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The election of cleric Hassan Rohani as president of Iran does not change anything since he was shortlisted by the country’s radical Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, Israeli leaders said.

Candidates who did not conform to Khamenei’s extremist outlook were not able to run for the presidency, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting, pointing out that “among those whose candidacies he allowed was elected the candidate who was seen as less identified with the regime, who still defines the State of Israel as ‘the great Zionist Satan.’”

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Netanyahu pointed out that it is Khamenei who ultimately determines Iran’s nuclear policy. “Iran will be judged by its actions. If it continues to insist on developing its nuclear program, the answer needs to be very clear – stopping the nuclear program by any means,” he said.

Rohani was elected Saturday, and will take office in August. He received slightly over 50 percent of the vote, based on a 72 percent turnout of 50 million eligible voters.

“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,” Rohani said on state television Saturday.

“After the elections, Iran will continue to be judged by its actions, in the nuclear sphere as well as on the issue of terror. Iran must abide by the demands of the international community to stop its nuclear program and cease the dissemination of terror throughout the world,” Israel’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“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 Saturday in a statement. “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.”

On Sunday, the British newspaper The Independent, reported that Iran decided to send 4,000 Revolutionary Guard troops to Syria to aid President Bashar Assad against rebel forces in his country’s two-year civil war. The decision reportedly was made before the start of the presidential election.

Iran also proposed opening up what it called a “Syrian front” against Israel in the Golan Heights, according to the Independent.

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