WASHINGTON — Iran's newly sworn-in president swept to victory in the country's June elections by offering a new approach.
Now that Hassan Rouhani has been sworn in, he is making some promises, including about reviving nuclear negotiations with the West.
In his first news conference, Iran's Rouhani set a softer tone than his predecessor.
"We observe carefully all actions taken by the U.S. government. If they take constructive and meaningful steps, the Iranian government certainly will show a similar response," he said.
Rouhani also said Iran is ready for "serious and substantive" negotiations on its nuclear program, expressing optimism a solution can be reached.
The United States and other Western nations suspect Iran of trying to build nuclear weapons. The White House has said repeatedly, that the burden is on Tehran to prove its nuclear program is peaceful.
"Should it be willing to do that in a verifiable way, there's an opportunity for Iran to reenter the international community, to ease the burden of it's isolation," said White House Spokesman Jay Carney.
The issue is crucial for Iran. The international community has hit the country with round after round of sanctions over its nuclear program, crippling its economy.
Former Ambassador James Jeffrey, with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said it is something the new Iranian government cannot ignore.
“The public overwhelmingly want these sanctions to end. They clearly are tired of the economic straits that Iran finds itself in, and any government, including an Islamic government, is going to feel pressure to respond to that,” said Jeffrey.
Already, some of Rouhani's appointments may indicate how serious he is about that response, starting with Javad Zarif for foreign minister. Zarif is Iran's former ambassador to the United Nations. He is U.S. educated, well known to Western diplomats, and not afraid to sound tough.
"The people and the government the Islamic Republic of Iran are determined to exercise their inalienable right to nuclear technology," said Zariff.
He is also willing, however, to sound conciliatory.
"Iran is prepared for a negotiated solution," said Zariff.
As for how much that means, Matthew Duss of the Center for American Progress is unsure.
"Right now we're still very much in the stage of speech-making and slogans,"said Duss. I think very soon we'll have an opportunity to test whether Rouhani is able to make good on some of his promises."
Rouhani swept to victory by winning over reform-minded voters. Now it seems he has made an opening to the West. But any changes will need the approval of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who likely will be looking over Rouhani's shoulder every step of the way.