Middle East

Iran election: Israel issues warning after Rouhani win

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Media captionThousands turned out to hear Mr Rouhani make his first public comments since his presidential election victory.

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has warned that international pressure on Iran must not be loosened in the wake of the election of reformist-backed Hassan Rouhani as president.

Mr Netanyahu said Iran's nuclear programme must be stopped "by any means" and there should be no "wishful thinking" about Mr Rouhani's victory.

The cleric won just over 50% of the vote in Friday's election.

He said his election was a "victory of moderation over extremism".

Putin's message

One of Mr Rouhani's main election pledges was to try to ease international sanctions imposed on Iran over its nuclear programme, and he has also promised greater engagement with Western powers.

But Mr Netanyahu said on Sunday: "The international community should not fall into wishful thinking and be tempted to ease pressure on Iran to stop its nuclear programme."

He added: "Iran will be judged on its actions. If it insists on continuing to develop its nuclear programme the answer needs to be clear - stopping its nuclear programme by any means."

Israeli President Shimon Peres said he hoped Mr Rouhani's election would bring about change, telling Reuters: "He said he will not go for these extreme policies. I am not sure he specified his policies. But it will be better, I am sure, and that is why the people voted for him."

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said: "If what truly happened is that the Iranian people want more moderation and if there is also pressure to have better relations with the West, then the test will move to the West."

The international sanctions have contributed to economic hardship in Iran, which is suffering from rising unemployment, a devalued currency and soaring inflation.

Israel and some Western powers suspect Iran's nuclear programme may be a front for making weapons, but Tehran insists it is purely peaceful.

Israel has not ruled out military action if international sanctions and diplomacy fail to stop Tehran producing highly enriched uranium.

Western powers have indicated that they are willing to engage with the new Iranian president.

"If [Mr Rouhani] lives up to his obligations under the UN Security Council resolutions to come clean on this illicit nuclear program, he will find a partner in us," White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough told CBS News.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said she hoped for a "swift diplomatic solution" to the Iranian nuclear issue.

Russia on Sunday congratulated Mr Rouhani on his victory. President Vladimir Putin "expressed confidence Hassan Rouhani's work will... further strengthen Russian-Iranian relations", the Kremlin said.

Tens of thousands of Iranians took to the streets after the results were announced on Saturday, many wearing Mr Rouhani's election colour of purple, but others dressed in the green of the reformist movement.

Mr Rouhani has already begun discussions on his cabinet with Ali Larijani, speaker for Iran's parliament, the Isna news agency said.

Parliament must approve his selections when he takes office in August.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei congratulated Mr Rouhani on Saturday, and on Sunday the Revolutionary Guard said on its website: "We announce our comprehensive readiness for interaction and cooperation with the next administration."

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Media captionHassan Rouhani says he is proud to have been elected

Surge of support

Some 72.2% of the 50 million eligible voters cast ballots on Friday to choose the successor to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Mr Rouhani, who has held several parliamentary posts and served as chief nuclear negotiator, had not been an obvious landslide winner.

The surge of support for him came after Mohammad Reza Aref, the only reformist candidate in the race, announced on Tuesday that he was withdrawing on the advice of pro-reform ex-President Mohammad Khatami.

Mr Rouhani thus went into polling day with the endorsement of two ex-presidents - Mr Khatami and Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who was disqualified from the race by the powerful Guardian Council, a 12-member body of theologians and jurists.

In the end, Mr Rouhani won 18,613,329 of the 36,704,156 votes cast. This represented 50.71% of the vote, giving him enough to avoid a run-off.

Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf won 6,077,292 votes to take second place (16.56%).

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