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ayatollah ali khamenei

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has warned that Saudi Arabia will face “divine revenge” for its execution of Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei described Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr as a “martyr” who acted peacefully.

Protesters stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran on January 2, setting fire to the building before being driven back by police.

Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr was one of 47 people executed for terrorism offences.

Ayatollah Khamenei said Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr had been executed for his opposition to Saudi Arabia’s Sunni rulers.Ayatollah Ali Khamenei condemns Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr execution

The ayatollah tweeted: “This oppressed scholar had neither invited people to armed movement, nor was involved in covert plots.”

“The only act of #SheikhNimr was outspoken criticism,” he added, saying the “unfairly-spilled blood of oppressed martyr #SheikhNimr will affect rapidly & Divine revenge will seize Saudi politicians”.

Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr had been a figurehead in the anti-government protests that erupted in the wake of the Arab Spring up to his arrest in 2012.

Iran – Saudi Arabia’s main regional rival – has led condemnation among Shia communities over the execution.

The foreign ministry in Tehran said the Sunni kingdom would pay a high price for its action, and it summoned the Saudi charge d’affaires in Tehran in protest.

Some of the protesters at the Saudi embassy in Tehran hurled petrol bombs and rocks. Forty people have been arrested, officials said.

There have also been demonstrations in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, where Shia Muslims complain of marginalization, as well as in Iraq, Bahrain and several other countries.

For its part, Saudi Arabia complained to the Iranian envoy in Riyadh about what it called “blatant interference” in its internal affairs.

Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr’s execution has worsened long-running tensions between the two Middle Eastern nations, which support opposite sides in the Syrian and Yemen conflicts.

The US and UN have both called for restraint.

In a statement after the executions, State Department spokesman John Kirby appealed to Saudi Arabia’s government to respect and protect human rights, and to ensure fair and transparent judicial proceedings.

John Kirby also urged the Saudi government to permit peaceful expression of dissent and, along with other leaders in the region, to redouble efforts to reduce regional tensions.

Most of the 47 executed by Saudi Arabia were Sunnis convicted of involvement in al-Qaeda-linked terror attacks last decade.

Saudi Arabia carried out more than 150 executions in 2015, the highest figure recorded by human rights groups for 20 years.

New reports claim that President Barack Obama wrote a secret letter to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, describing a shared interest in fighting Islamic State (ISIS).

The letter, reported by the Wall Street Journal, urges Ayatollah Ali Khamenei toward a nuclear agreement.

Barack Obama stresses any co-operation on fighting ISIS is contingent on Iran reaching such an agreement by a November 24 diplomatic deadline.

The White House has declined to comment on Barack Obama’s “private correspondence”.

The letter, sent last month, is at least the fourth time Barack Obama has written to the Iranian leader since taking office in 2009 and underscores his view that Iran is important in an emerging campaign against ISIS.

President Barack Obama is said to have written a secret letter to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

President Barack Obama is said to have written a secret letter to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Officials with the Obama administration have, in recent days, placed the chances for a deal on Iran’s nuclear program at only 50-50, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to begin negotiations on the issue with Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif this weekend in Oman.

World powers suspect Iran of trying to make a nuclear bomb, a claim it denies.

An interim deal agreed late last year gave Iran some relief from sanctions in return for curbs on nuclear activity.

However, talks later stalled on the extent of uranium enrichment Iran would be allowed and on the timetable for sanctions to be lifted.

On November 6, White House spokesman Josh Earnest declined to comment directly on the secret letter.

“I can tell you that the policy that the president and his administration have articulated about Iran remains unchanged,” he said in response to questions.

Also on November 6, Republican speaker of the House John Boehner said he did not trust Iran’s leaders and said they should not be brought into the fight against ISIS.

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President Barack Obama has spoken by phone to Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani – the first such top-level conversation in more than 30 years.

Barack Obama spoke of a “unique opportunity” to make progress with Iran’s new leadership, amid a flurry of diplomacy over its nuclear programme.

Earlier, Hassan Rouhani said Iran was keen to reach a deal soon.

Hassan Rouhani also asserted that Iran did not seek a nuclear bomb, as Western powers have long suspected.

Describing meetings at the UN this week as a “first step”, he said he believed the nuclear issue could be settled “within the not too distant future”.

Hassan Rouhani said initial discussions had taken place in an environment that was “quite different” from the past.

On his arrival back in Tehran from the UN General Assembly forum in New York, Hassan Rouhani was met by a number of key political figures, as well as both supporters and opponents from the public.

President Barack Obama in historic phone call with Iran's President Hassan Rouhani

President Barack Obama in historic phone call with Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani

A New York Times reporter described the scene as chaotic, with dozens of hardliners hurling eggs and shoes at the president’s convoy.

The call with Barack Obama was made just before Hassan Rouhani left New York, where he has been attending the annual summit of the UN General Assembly, Iranian news agency Irna said.

White House officials described the 15 minute conversation – apparently initiated by Hassan Rouhani – as cordial.

Barack Obama raised concerns about American prisoners in Iran, but the bulk of the call was about efforts to reach a solution on the nuclear issue, she says.

Afterwards, Barack Obama said: “While there will surely be important obstacles to moving forward and success is by no means guaranteed, I believe we can reach a comprehensive solution.”

Hassan Rouhani, who is regarded as a moderate and was elected in June, has said he wants to reach a deal over the nuclear issue in three to six months.

The president says he is fully empowered by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to negotiate.

On Friday, Hassan Rouhani told a press conference at the UN: “Whatever result we achieve through negotiations my government will have the full backing of all the main branches of power in Iran as well as the support of the people of Iran.”

Hassan Rouhani said he wanted a deal “within a very short period of time”.

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Hassan Rouhani has officially replaced Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president of Iran.

Cleric Hassan Rouhani’s election has been endorsed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei at a ceremony in the capital, Tehran.

He won the presidential poll in June, promising to reform and to put an end to Iran’s international isolation.

The ceremony marks the handover of power, but his public inauguration does not take place until Sunday.

He is a former nuclear negotiator for Iran and was an Islamic activist before the 1979 Revolution.

Speaking at the ceremony, Hassan Rouhani said: ”I have assumed this responsibility with the support of those people who want change, who want a better life, away from corruption, poverty and discrimination, people who want more respect and dignity, and hope in a secure future.”

Hassan Rouhani, 64, has the support of Iran’s reform movement, which wants the new president to release political prisoners and have international sanctions lifted.

Hassan Rouhani has officially replaced Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president of Iran

Hassan Rouhani has officially replaced Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as president of Iran

But while he may be taking over as president, Hassan Rouhani will not be Iran’s main decision-maker.

In the Islamic Republic, it is the Supreme Leader, not the president, who has the final say.

The day before he took office, Hassan Rouhani said Israeli occupation was an “old wound on the body of the Islamic world”, as Iran marked its annual Jerusalem (Quds) Day.

His remarks echo those of other Iranian leaders on the day dedicated to supporting the Palestinians and denouncing Israel.

Iran has denied Israel’s right to exist since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

In his last interview before stepping aside on Friday, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also attacked Israel, warning of “storm brewing” in the region that would uproot Zionism, according to AFP news agency.

Many Iranians believe Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, elected twice in controversial polls, has put Iran on the path to economic ruin and confrontation with the outside world.

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Iran’s President-elect Hassan Rouhani says his country is ready to show more transparency on its nuclear programme.

In his first news conference since Friday’s vote, Hassan Rouhani also described as unfair sanctions imposed on the country over the issue.

The president said Tehran would not suspend its uranium enrichment activities.

The West suspects Iran of trying to build nuclear weapons. Tehran says its programme is solely for peaceful purposes.

At the news conference, which covered a wide range of issues, Hassan Rouhani also said his government would work towards “constructive interaction with the world”.

He thanked Iranians for “choosing moderation”, saying he would not forget his election promises.

Hassan Rouhani, a long-standing political figure in Iran, won just more than 50% of the vote in the election, avoiding a run-off vote.

Iran's President-elect Hassan Rouhani says his country is ready to show more transparency on its nuclear programme

Iran’s President-elect Hassan Rouhani says his country is ready to show more transparency on its nuclear programme

Iran’s president has limited powers, with key policy decisions being taken by the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

“Our nuclear programmes are completely transparent,” Hassan Rouhani told a packed hall in the capital Tehran.

“But we are ready to show greater transparency and make clear for the whole world that the steps of the Islamic Republic of Iran are completely within international frameworks,” he said.

But he stressed that he would oppose halting Iran’s uranium enrichment – a key stumbling block in the continuing talks between Tehran and world powers.

Last month, the UN nuclear watchdog said Iran had installed hundreds of new centrifuges at its Natanz plant.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) again expressed concern about the “possible military dimensions” of Iran’s nuclear programme.

But it said there had not been much growth of the most sensitive nuclear material – uranium enriched to 20%.

Iran has been the target of four rounds of UN sanctions and numerous UN Security Council resolutions calling on it to cease enrichment work.

Israel has threatened to carry out air strikes on its long-time foe if its enrichment activities do not stop.

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Hassan Rouhani has won Iran’s presidential election, securing just over 50% of the vote and so avoiding the need for a run-off.

Crowds gathered in Tehran to hail reformist-backed cleric Hassan Rouhani, who said he had achieved a “victory of moderation over extremism”.

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

The US said it was “ready to engage directly” with Iran over its disputed nuclear programme.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei congratulated Hassan Rouhani on his victory.

“I urge everyone to help the president-elect and his colleagues in the government, as he is the president of the whole nation,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will ratify the vote on August 3 and the new president will then take the oath in parliament.

Hassan Rouhani, who has pledged greater engagement with Western powers, said: “This victory is a victory for wisdom, moderation and maturity… over extremism.”

But he also urged the world to “acknowledge the rights” of Iran.

He said: “The nations who tout democracy and open dialogue should speak to the Iranian people with respect and recognize the rights of the Islamic republic.”

Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar announced that Hassan Rouhani had won 18,613,329 of the 36,704,156 votes cast. This represented 50.71% of the vote.

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

Saeed Jalili came third and Mohsen Rezai fourth.

Mostafa Mohammad Najjar said that any challenge by presidential candidates would have to be lodged to the Guardian Council within three days.

The winning candidate needed more than 50% of all ballots cast, including invalid ones, to avoid a run-off.

Crowds gathered in Vali-Asr Square in central Tehran and in Kaj Square in the north-west of the capital to hail the victory.

“Long live reform, long live Rouhani,” members of the crowd chanted.

Hassan Rouhani has won Iran's presidential election, securing just over 50 percent of the vote and so avoiding the need for a run-off

Hassan Rouhani has won Iran’s presidential election, securing just over 50 percent of the vote and so avoiding the need for a run-off

One of them told Reuters news agency: “Many people are holding Rouhani posters. Some are hugging and crying. We are all so happy here. We can’t believe there is finally a change.”

The US said it respected the vote, although White House spokesman Jay Carney cited concern at censorship and lack of transparency.

The US would “engage Iran directly” to find a “diplomatic solution that will fully address the international community’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear programme”.

The UK Foreign Office urged Hassan Rouhani to “set Iran on a different course for the future: addressing international concerns about Iran’s nuclear programme… and improving the political and human rights situation for the people of Iran”.

France said it was “ready to work” with the new leader.

One of Hassan Rouhani’s main pledges was to try to ease international sanctions imposed on Iran over its nuclear programme.

Iran has been suffering economic hardship, with rising unemployment, a devalued currency and soaring inflation.

Voting had been extended by five hours on Friday evening to allow more people to cast their ballots.

Although all six candidates were seen as conservatives, analysts say Hassan Rouhani – a 64-year-old cleric often described as “moderate” who has held several parliamentary posts and served as chief nuclear negotiator – has been reaching out to reformists in recent days.

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.

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

The hard-line candidates included Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf – who is seen as a pragmatic conservative – and nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili – who is said to be very close to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The other three candidates were Mohsen Rezai, a former head of the powerful Revolutionary Guards, former Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati, and former Telecommunications Minister Mohammad Gharazi.

After the last presidential election in June 2009, millions of Iranians took to the streets to demand a rerun, when the supreme leader dismissed claims by the three defeated candidates of widespread fraud.

No foreign observers monitored this year’s election and there have also been concerns that media coverage in the run-up has been unfair.

Many reformist newspapers have been shut down, access to the internet and foreign broadcasters has been restricted, and journalists have been detained.

Who is Hassan Rouhani?

  • A religious moderate, fluent in English, German, French, Russian and Arabic
  • The only cleric contesting the Iranian presidential election
  • Key figure in Iranian politics who has held some of the country’s top jobs, including chief nuclear negotiator
  • Has the backing of two former presidents

Iran presidential election results:

  • Hassan Rouhani: 18,613,329
  • Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf: 6,077,292
  • Saeed Jalili: 4,168,946
  • Mohsen Rezai: 3,884,412
  • Ali Akbar Velayati: 2,268,753
  • Mohammad Gharazi: 446,015
  • Votes cast: 36,704,156

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Iran’s presidential election initial count put the reformist-backed candidate, Hassan Rouhani, in the lead.

Official figures give Hassan Rouhani 51% of the five million ballots counted so far – well ahead of second-placed Tehran mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf on 17%.

If Hassan Rouhani maintains that margin, he will be able to avoid a run-off vote.

Electoral officials said turnout was high among the 50 million Iranians eligible to vote on Friday for a successor to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s eight years in power have been characterized by economic turmoil and Western sanctions against Iran over its nuclear programme.

The interior ministry began releasing preliminary figures early on Saturday after a delay of several hours.

Voting was extended until 23:00 local time on Friday to allow more people to cast their ballots. Iranian Press TV reported that turnout was 80%.

It is unclear when the final results will be known.

Although all six candidates are seen as conservatives, analysts say Hassan Rouhani – a 64-year-old cleric often described as “moderate” who has held several parliamentary posts and served as chief nuclear negotiator – has been reaching out to reformists in recent days.

Official figures give Hassan Rouhani more than 51 percent of the five million ballots counted so far

Official figures give Hassan Rouhani more than 51 percent of the five million ballots counted so far

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.

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

However, Hassan Rouhani faced a tough challenge from hard-line candidates, including Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf – who is seen as a pragmatic conservative – and nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili – who is said to be very close to the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The other three candidates are Mohsen Rezai, a former head of the powerful Revolutionary Guards, former Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati, and former Telecommunications Minister Mohammad Gharazi.

As polls closed, representatives of all six candidates issued a joint statement urging their supporters to remain calm until the official results were known.

“We ask people not to pay attention to rumors of victory parades being organized and to avoid gathering before the official results,” the statement said.

Earlier, Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar told state TV that any presidential candidates unhappy with the results would have three days to lodge complaints to the Guardian Council.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad cast his ballot in Tehran accompanied by Vice-President Mohammad Reza Rahimi and government spokesman Gholam Hoseyn Elham, Fars news agency reported.

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Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has dismissed a US offer of one-to-one talks on Tehran’s nuclear programme.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a speech posted online that the US was proposing talks while “pointing a gun at Iran”.

On Saturday, US Vice-President Joe Biden suggested direct talks, separate to the wider international discussions due to take place later this month.

But the US widened sanctions on Iran on Wednesday, aiming to tighten a squeeze on Tehran’s ability to spend oil cash.

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has dismissed a US offer of one-to-one talks on Tehran's nuclear programme

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has dismissed a US offer of one-to-one talks on Tehran’s nuclear programme

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