In a recent interview, Saudi Arabia’s minister
of state for foreign affairs Adel al-Jubeir has said all options, including a
military response, are open after attacks on two oil facilities, which it has
blamed on Iran.
A US assessment claiming Iran was behind the attacks on the Saudi oil
facilities was backed up by France, the UK, and Germany this week.
However, Iran has denied any involvement.
The Iran-aligned rebel Houthi movement in Yemen, which is fighting a
Saudi-led coalition in the country’s civil war, has said it launched drones at
Saudi officials say the range, scale and complexity of the attacks exceeded
the capabilities of the Houthis.
Meanwhile, the US re-imposed economic sanctions against Iran last year after
abandoning a 2015 nuclear deal, and in May said it would attempt to force all
countries to stop buying Iranian oil and put pressure on Iran to negotiate a
new nuclear accord.
On September 25, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters at the UN
that the US wanted “a peaceful resolution with the Islamic Republic of
He added: “In the end, it’ll be
up to the Iranians to make that decision, or whether they’ll choose violence
French President Emmanuel Macron had attempted to broker an historic meeting
between President Donald Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
However, President Rouhani told delegates at the UN that he refused to meet President
Trump while Iran’s punishing economic sanctions were in place. He cast doubt on
US intentions, referring to Mike Pompeo’s boast last year that it had imposed
“the strongest sanctions in history” on Iran.
He said: “How can someone believe
them when the silent killing of a great nation, and pressure on the lives of 83
million Iranians, especially women and children, are welcomed by American
“The Iranian nation will never,
ever forget and forgive these crimes and these criminals.”
President Rouhani also dismissed the idea of a photo with President Trump, who has staged several photo opportunities with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un – including one apparently spontaneous handshake in the Korean peninsula’s Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).
Iran’s reformists have won a landslide victory in Tehran, in the first elections since the country signed a nuclear deal with world powers.
With 90% of the votes counted, the allies of reformist President Hassan Rouhani – the pro-Rouhani List of Hope – are set to take all 30 seats in Tehran.
The leading conservative candidate Gholamali Haddad-Adel is in 31st place.
Millions voted on February 26 to elect the 290-seat parliament as well as members of the Assembly of Experts.
The 88-member assembly appoints Iran’s Supreme Leader and might end up choosing a successor to Ayatollah Khamenei, who is 76 and has suffered ill-health.
Early results gave former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a moderate Conservative, and Hassan Rouhani the most votes for the assembly, which is composed of mostly elder and senior clerics.
By contrast, the leading candidate of Islamic hardliners, Ayatollah Taghi Mesbah Yazdi, was hovering near the bottom of the list.
The parliamentary result in Tehran is significant because lawmakers from the capital usually determine the political direction of the house, analysts say.
However, reformists look to have done less well in constituencies outside the capital.
Hassan Rouhani said on February 27 that the election gave the government more credibility and clout.
“The competition is over. It’s time to open a new chapter in Iran’s economic development based on domestic abilities and international opportunities,” the official Irna news agency quoted the president as saying.
“The people showed their power once again and gave more credibility and strength to their elected government.”
Voting was extended three times as crowds reportedly flocked to polling stations. Turnout was more than 60%.
Reformists, who want better relations with the outside world and more freedoms at home, were hoping to gain influence in the conservative-dominated bodies.
However, of 12,000 people who registered as candidates, only half were allowed to stand, including just 200 moderates.
This was the first election to be held since last year’s deal between Iran and world powers over the country’s nuclear program and the lifting of sanctions.
Six world powers – the US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany – have reached a historic deal with Iran in Vienna on limiting its nuclear activity in return for the lifting of international economic sanctions.
President Barack Obama said that with the deal, “every pathway to a nuclear weapon is cut off” for Iran.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said it opened a “new chapter” in Iran’s relations with the world.
Negotiations between Iran and six world powers began in 2006.
The so-called P5+1 want Iran to scale back its sensitive nuclear activities to ensure that it cannot build a nuclear weapon.
Iran, which wants crippling international sanctions lifted, has always insisted that its nuclear work is peaceful.
In a televised address, President Barack Obama said the deal would make the world “safer and more secure”, and provided for a rigorous verification regime.
“This deal is not built on trust – it is built on verification,” he said.
Immediately afterwards, Hassan Rouhani gave his own televised address, in which he said the prayers of Iranians had “come true”.
He said the deal would lead to the removal of all sanctions, adding: “The sanctions regime was never successful, but at the same time it had affected people’s lives.”
After 12 years, world powers had finally “recognized the nuclear activities of Iran”, he said.
Both Hassan Rouhani and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif referred to the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program as an “unnecessary crisis”.
Earlier, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the agreement was “a sign of hope for the entire world”.
“It is a decision that can open the way to a new chapter in international relations,” she said.
Javad Zarif said the deal was “not perfect for anybody”, but that it was the “best achievement possible that could be reached”.
President barack Obama, who is trying to persuade a skeptical US Congress of the benefits, said it would oblige Iran to:
remove two-thirds of installed centrifuges and store them under international supervision
get rid of 98% of its enriched uranium
accept that sanctions would be rapidly restored if the deal was violated
permanently give the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) access “where necessary when necessary”
Sanctions relief would be gradual, Barack Obama said, with an arms embargo remaining in place for five years and an embargo on missiles for eight years.
Separately, the IAEA and Iran said they had signed a roadmap to resolve outstanding issues.
IAEA head Yukiya Amano told reporters in Vienna, Austria, that his organization had signed a roadmap “for the clarification of past and present outstanding issues regarding Iran’s nuclear program”.
He called the agreement a “significant step forward”, saying it would allow the agency to “make an assessment of issues relating to possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear program by the end of 2015”.
There has been stiff resistance to a deal from conservatives both in Iran and the US. The US Congress has 60 days in which to consider the deal, though Barack Obama said he would veto any attempt to block it.
Israel’s government has also warned against an agreement.
PM Benjamin Netanyahu said it was a “historic mistake” that would provide Iran with “hundreds of billions of dollars with which it can fuel its terror machine and its expansion and aggression throughout the Middle East and across the globe”.
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
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”.
Iran has been urged by China and the US to respond “positively” to an international offer over its nuclear programme, US officials say.
The call came ahead a rare, high-level meeting between the US and Iran.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called for a world without nuclear weapons, hours after saying Tehran wanted a deal in three to six months.
The West suspects Tehran is trying to develop a nuclear weapon, a claim strongly denied by Iran.
Iran has been negotiating over the issue since 2006 with the P5+1 – the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany.
On Tuesday, Hassan Rouhani told the UN General Assembly that he was prepared to engage in “time-bound and results-oriented” talks.
On Thursday, Hassan Rouhani called from stricter controls on nuclear weapons as part of a global effort to eventually rid the world of them.
“No nation should possess nuclear weapons; since there are no right hands for these wrong weapons,” he said, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement at the General Assembly.
Hassan Rouhani called from stricter controls on nuclear weapons as part of a global effort to eventually rid the world of the
The P5+1 has asked to halt production and stockpiling of uranium enriched to 20% – a step away from achieving a nuclear weapons capability.
It also demanded Iran shut down the Fordo underground enrichment facility.
In return, it offered to ease the sanctions that have severely affected Iran’s economy.
“Both the US and China believe that Iran should cooperate with the P5+1 and should respond positively to the proposals that are on the table,” a US official told journalists at the UN.
Later, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is due to meet US Secretary of State John Kerry as well as diplomats from the UK, France, Russia, China and Germany on the sidelines of the annual UN General Assembly summit in New York.
It will be the highest level direct contact between the US and Iran for six years.
President Barack Obama has welcomed the new Iranian president’s more “moderate course”.
Barack Obama told the UN on Tuesday that the US wanted to resolve the nuclear issue peacefully, but was determined to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.
Hassan Rouhani has said he is fully empowered by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei to negotiate on the issue.
President Barack Obama has said recent moves by Iran should offer the basis for a “meaningful agreement” on its nuclear programme.
Speaking at the UN General Assembly’s annual meeting, Barack Obama said words now had to be “matched by actions that are transparent and verifiable”.
The US leader recently exchanged letters with his newly-elected counterpart over the nuclear issue.
Barack Obama also called for a strong UN resolution on Syria’s chemical arms.
He said the purpose of such a resolution should be “to verify that the [Bashar al-Assad’s] regime is keeping its commitments” to remove or destroy its chemical weapons.
The deal for Syria to hand over its chemical weapons by mid-2014 was agreed earlier this month between the US and Russia, averting a possible Western military strike.
Differences have since emerged over whether the deal should be enforced by a UN Security Council resolution under Chapter VII of the organization’s charter, which would authorize sanctions and the use of force if Syria did not comply with its obligations.
Opening the UN summit on Tuesday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the Syrian government must “fully and quickly honor” its obligations under the deal.
“The international community must bring to justice the perpetrators of the use of chemical weapons in Syria, confirmed unequivocally by the UN investigation mission,” he said.
On Iran, Barack Obama said the US wanted to resolve the nuclear issue peacefully, but was determined to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.
Speaking at the UN General Assembly’s annual meeting, Barack Obama urged for diplomatic push on Iran nuclear programme
“The roadblocks may prove to be too great, but I firmly believe the diplomatic path must be tested” he said, adding that he had urged his Secretary of State John Kerry to pursue a deal.
“Iran’s genuine commitment to go down a different path will be good for the region and the world,” Barack Obama said.
Iran insists it is a peaceful programme, but Western countries suspect it of seeking to develop a nuclear weapon.
Iran’s new President, Hassan Rouhani, has said he wants to present his country’s “true face”.
A meeting between Barack Obama and Hassan Rouhani – the first such encounter since the 1979 revolution – has not been ruled out.
There is also speculation that he and Barack Obama may shake hands on the sidelines of the General Assembly.
On Thursday, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will discuss its nuclear programme with John Kerry and other diplomats.
A foreign ministry spokeswoman in Tehran said the meeting represented the “beginning for nuclear talks in the new era”.
The meeting will be attended by foreign ministers from the other four permanent UN Security Council members – the UK, China, France and Russia – and also Germany, which make up the so-called P5+1.
Hassan Rouhani has said he is ready to restart stalled nuclear talks without preconditions.
Western ministers will want to see an Iranian willingness to make concessions on its nuclear programme if there is to be any lifting or lightening of UN and Western sanctions.
Iran for its part will want a clear indication that the US is willing to treat Iran with the respect it believes it deserves as a significant regional player.
The EU’s foreign policy chief, Baroness Catherine Ashton, met Javad Zarif on Monday and described their discussion as “good and constructive.” She said her team would hold talks with Javad Zarif again in October in Geneva to assess progress.
Last week, Hassan Rouhani said that his country would never “seek weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons”, and that his goal was “constructive engagement” with the international community.
President Hassan Rouhani has called for “serious and substantive” negotiations with the international community about Iran’s nuclear programme.
At the first news conference since his inauguration on Sunday, Hassan Rouhani said he was confident both sides’ concerns could be resolved in a short time.
But a solution could be reached solely through “talks, not threats”, Hassan Rouhani added.
The US has said Hassan Rouhani’s presidency presents an opportunity for Iran to resolve the world’s “deep concerns”.
“Should this new government choose to engage substantively and seriously to meet its international obligations and find a peaceful solution to this issue, it will find a willing partner in the United States,” it added.
Western powers suspect Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons, but Tehran insists its nuclear programme is entirely peaceful.
Iran has repeatedly rejected demands by the so-called P5+1 – the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany – to halt uranium enrichment.
Addressing domestic and international journalists in Tehran on Tuesday, Hassan Rouhani stated that Iran’s uranium enrichment programme was peaceful and legal and would continue. But he also said he was determined to resolve the long-running dispute.
Iran’s new President Hassan Rouhani is ready to talk on nuclear issue
“We are ready – seriously and without wasting time – to engage in serious and substantive talks with the other sides. I am certain the concerns of the two sides would be removed through talks in a short period of time.
“However, demands outside any legal framework or illogical and outdated demands will not be useful. We should deal with the issue through a realistic approach.”
But Hassan Rouhani stressed that Iran’s rights must be preserved, adding: “The basis of our agenda should be talks, not threats.”
Hassan Rouhani said the US still did not have a thorough and proper understanding of what was happening in Iran, and that it had not responded in an “appropriate and practical” manner after June’s presidential election.
“[Washington’s] behavior and words are contradictory,” he said, adding that there was a “war-mongering group” there opposed to talks which was taking orders from a foreign country – presumably a reference to Israel.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov welcomed Hassan Rouhani’s call for negotiations.
“We absolutely agree with what he said. Resolving this, like any other issue, must be not on the basis of ultimatums, but based on a respectful attitude to a partner,” he told reporters in Rome.
Earlier, Sergei Lavrov’s deputy said a new round of talks between Iran and the P5+1 must not be delayed and should take place by mid-September.
On Sunday, Hassani Rouhani presented to Iran’s parliament, the Majlis, a new cabinet dominated by technocrats who had previously served under a moderate former President, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.
Hassan Rouhani also vowed at Tuesday’s news conference that his government would be accountable and act transparently.
He said he would keep his promise to “report on the progress made and the achievements, as well as the shortcomings and failings”.
“Without the people’s support, the government will have no chance of meeting its long-term goals,” he warned.
Hassan Rouhani has inherited a range of problems from his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, including high inflation, diminishing revenues and foreign reserves, possible food shortages, as well as sanctions.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
Some 50 million voters across Iran are casting their ballots in the country’s key presidential elections.
Although all six candidates are seen as conservatives, one of them, cleric Hassan Rouhani, has been reaching out to the reformists in recent days.
The election will decide a successor to outgoing leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s eight years in power have been characterized by economic turmoil and Western sanctions against Iran over its controversial nuclear programme.
Polls across Iran opened at 08:00 local time and are due to close at 18:00. Some 50 million people are eligible to cast their ballots.
The past week brought a surprising change to what otherwise had looked like being a predictable election.
Hassan Rouhani has been attracting increasing attention, speaking publicly about the need to re-engage with the West, our correspondent says.
He has also promised to free political prisoners and called for greater reform of the media.
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 his candidature on the advice of pro-reform ex-President Mohammad Khatami.
Hassan Rouhani now has the endorsement of two ex-presidents, Mohammad Khatami and Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who was disqualified from the race by the powerful Guardian Council.
However, Hassan Rouhani faces a tough challenge from hard-line candidates, including top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili and Tehran’s mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf.
Six candidates are running for Iran’s presidential race
The remaining candidates are conservatives close to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei.
He has called for a large turnout but not publicly stated his preference for any single candidate.
After casting his vote early, Ayatollah Khamenei spoke live on state television.
“Inshallah [God willing], the Iranian people will create a new political epic,” he said.
He also attacked US criticism of the presidential poll and those, in the US, who said they did not recognize the election.
“The Iranian people… will do what is in their interest.”
If no candidate secures 50.1 percent or more of the votes to win outright, a second round will be held in a week’s time.
Friday’s election is the first since 2009, when protesters took to the streets in anger at the results which they said had been rigged in favor of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
But the disqualification of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani in May left supporters of the post-2009 liberal movement divided about whether to bother voting in the election at all.
No foreign observers will be monitoring the poll, and there have also been concerns that media coverage in the run-up was unfair.
Many reform newspapers have been shut down, access to the internet and foreign broadcasters restricted, and journalists detained.
Iranian presidential elections:
Six candidates running
Race is seen as contest between Ayatollah Ali Khamenei loyalists and moderate reformers
About 50 million eligible voters
If no candidate wins 50.1%, run-off held on June 21
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