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As Iran Ushers in New Leadership, Talk of Compromise and Transparency

August 5, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT
Over the weekend in Iran, that country's new president, Hassan Rouhani, pledged more moderation and transparency. Independent Television News' Alex Thompson reports on how Iranians are reacting to their new leader and whether they predict a change in approach on Iran's nuclear programs or justice and rights for its citizens.

GWEN IFILL: Now to Iran the day after a new president was sworn in.

In his inaugural address, Hassan Rouhani promised moderation and transparency. Today, he proposed a Cabinet made up of reformists and conservatives.

Alex Thomson of Independent Television News reports from just outside Iran’s capital.

ALEX THOMSON: Southwest from Tehran on the road to the holy city of Qom, and it rises still unfinished dominating the countryside, four minarets, 89 meters high for the 89 years he lived, the burial place of the father of Iran’s revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini.

Pilgrims, of course, from all over the Shia world converge on this place, but, above all , Iranians, of course, paying homage to the personification of the country’s revolution, the man who set its very tone dubbing the United States the great Satan.

What do they make of the new president with his talk of transparency over the nuclear issue?

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WOMAN (through interpreter): He says we’re not looking for war. We’re looking for negotiations. I think he can handle everything. And we’re really hopeful for him.

MAN (through interpreter): The West should compromise with us. We are not going to abandon our religion.

WOMAN (through interpreter): If they negotiate properly and listen to our leader and what he wants, Iranian people will accept that logic. There can be compromise and peace.

ALEX THOMSON: There’s talk of a change, but be clear. This president announced he will defend the revolution. He’s warned the West to change its style over the nuclear issue. And he wants a Cabinet of centrists, not radical reformers.

And that feeling that the West should now make concessions on the nuclear issue is very widespread. You just don’t find it here at the Khomeini Mausoleum. But what about domestically in Iran itself? What about justice and rights in this country, something which the new president himself addressed only yesterday?

Chelcheragh magazine in Tehran tries to do new things differently through culture, art, media, to the recent election, of course, young readers, young writers, young aspirations across Iran, and people hearing right now a president say that rights and justice matter.

Immediately after the new president was elected, the magazine published a survey of young people’s attitudes.

MAZADEH KHALILI, Chelcheragh (through interpreter): What they told us was that the Constitution says you can’t force someone to publish something or prevent someone from publishing something. Young people said to us if they just followed this law that it would create an environment in which their wishes would be fulfilled.

ALEX THOMSON: The walls of the Khomeini shrine show one face of this country. The walls of a young magazine office show quite another, the two diverging worlds which somehow the new president must speak to.