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White House congratulates Iranians on new president

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The White House congratulated Iranians Saturday on the election of a more moderate president and said the Obama administration "remains ready" to hold direct talks with Tehran over its suspected nuclear weapons program.

"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," White House press secretary Jay Carney said 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."

Moderate cleric Hassan Rohani won Iran's presidential election on Saturday, the interior ministry said, scoring a victory over conservative hardliners without the need for a run-off.

Although Mr. Rohani is viewed as more moderate than outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was legally barred from seeking a third consecutive term, Iran's tensions with the West are unlikely to ease quickly. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei still exerts control over national security as Iran feuds with the U.S. and its allies over Tehran's support for the regime in Syria, and its nuclear weapons ambitions.

The White House said the Iranian 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."

"Despite these government obstacles and limitations, the Iranian people were determined to act to shape their future," Mr. Carney said. "The United States remains 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."

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