TEHRAN, Iran — Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was sworn in as Iran’s president on Saturday, saying he wants peaceful relations with the world but rejecting outside pressure to change course — an apparent reference to Tehran’s nuclear standoff with the West.
The conservative Ahmadinejad said he would focus domestically on restoring Islam as the guiding force in public policy.
“Justice, peace and detente are important elements in our foreign policy, Ahmadinejad said in an inaugural speech. “These are inseparable parts of our policy.”
In a less conciliatory note, the new president said his government respects international norms but “will not follow illegal decisions that plan to violate rights of the Iranian nation.”
Shortly after Ahmadinejad’s inauguration, Iran rejected Europe’s proposal for ending a standoff over Tehran’s nuclear program, calling it “unacceptable” and not up to minimum expectations.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said the government was rejecting the European package of incentives mainly because it did not recognize Iran’s right to enrich uranium. Enriched uranium can be used for producing both nuclear energy and nuclear weapons.
Although Iran has large oil reserves, it claims its nuclear program is only for peaceful energy production. However, the United States suspects it is secretly geared toward manufacturing nuclear weapons.
“Our nation is not terrified by any threat. Nothing can crush the power of an integrated nation. Our government, based on support of such a nation, will bravely defend national interests and will not be humiliated,” Ahmadinejad said in an apparent reference to the nuclear standoff.
“Some governments have been trying to deprive our nation from its definite right. Such an attitude forms resistance in people … I don’t know why some countries do not want to understand this fact that Iranian people do not tolerate force.”
On domestic affairs, Ahmadinejad said he wanted to put more focus on Islam.
“In the past years there was some efforts to weaken role of religion in the country’s politics and government. If religion weakens then our identity will be weakened and confiscated,” he said.
He also renewed his promise wipe out unemployment and poverty.
The former Tehran mayor received approval from Iran’s Islamic religious establishment on Wednesday.