[Spectator] The installation of Hassan Rouhani as President of Iran next month heralds a new chapter for the country. It is clear that he was elected not only because it was felt — both at the highest levels and by the people — that he was best placed to negotiate with the West on Iran’s nuclear programme but also because he was the candidate most likely to appeal to reform-hungry Iranians.
Rouhani is a protégé of the former president Muhammed Khatami, with whom I have had the chance to work. When he was President, I spent a whole day with him meeting political, civil society and religious leaders. Visiting him in Iran, I was always struck by his learning and his humility. Khatami knew about the puritan origins of the United States and the ways that tension between religious beliefs and liberty was resolved. He never tired of pointing out similarities between the difficulties of the Iranian experience and the founding of America. In opposition to the then fashionable ‘clash of civilisations’ thesis, he launched his own ‘dialogue of civilisations’ programme.
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