In a rare bit of good news for American foreign policy, a moderate was elected to the presidency of Iran, replacing the radical Islamist Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was term limited out of office.
Reformist-backed cleric 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 Mr 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 Mr 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,” he said.
Ayatollah Khamenei will ratify the vote on 3 August and the new president will then take the oath in parliament.
Mr 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 recognise the rights of the Islamic republic.”
Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar announced that Mr Rouhani had won 18,613,329 of the 36,704,156 votes cast. This represented 50.71% of the vote.