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Summary Article: Rouhani, Hassan
From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Iranian politician, president from 2013. Viewed in Iran and the West as a religious moderate, he was the only cleric and reformist to stand in the 2013 presidential election, which he narrowly won. He replaced the arch-conservative Hashemi Rafsanjani, under whom relations with the West had deteriorated. Rouhani pledged to steer Iran towards ‘moderation’, seeking an easing of Western sanctions imposed over Iran's nuclear programme. His room for manoeuvre appeared limited by the power wielded by Iran's Supreme Leader, the conservative Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, but Rouhani had developed a reputation abroad in 2003–05, when he was Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, as ‘the diplomat sheikh’ who was conciliatory and pragmatic. In September 2013 he pledged, at the UN General Assembly, that Iran would never build nuclear weapons. This led to negotiations under which, in November 2013, Iran agreed to reduce its uranium enrichment and provide UN inspectors improved access, while the international community agreed to lift $7 billion of economic sanctions. In July 2015, in a landmark agreement with USA, UK, Russia, China, France, and Germany, Iran agreed to significantly limit its sensitive nuclear activities for over a decade; in return, sanctions were lifted in January 2016. In May 2017 Rouhani was re-elected president with 57% of the vote.

Rouhani was born near Semnan in northern Iran with the name Hassan Feridon, which he changed later to Rouhani (which means ‘spiritual’ or ‘cleric’). He studied law at the University of Tehran and carried out military service, but was also an Islamic activist prior to the Islamic revolution that overthrew the Shah in 1979. He was elected to Iran's parliament in 1980 and during the Iran–Iraq war played an important role in the Supreme Defence Council 1982–88. He was national security adviser to presidents Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami from 1989–97 and 2000–05.

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