Iran's New President 'Welcomes' Facebook, Says Restricting Freedom 'Inefficient'

Hassan Rohani tells youth magazine that internet filtering is 'futile', according to remarks carried and translated by The Guardian, also says he opposes gender segregation.

Iran's incoming president Hassan Rohani seems to be toeing a softer line on censorship in the Islamic Republic, telling a popular youth magazine that was opposed to the crackdown that characterized his predecessor's government.

"In the age of digital revolution, one cannot live or govern in a quarantine," Rohani told the Chelcheragh, according to a translation carried by The Guardian.

He also told the magazine that he welcomed social networking sites such as Facebook, believed internet filtering was futile, and that he was opposed to gender segregation.

"There are political reasons. They have fears of the freedom people have in online atmosphere, this is why they seek to restrict information. But filtering is incapable of producing any [useful] results," he said, according to The Guardian.

The president-elect, who is set to be sworn in next month, also denounced the practice of restricting citizens' freedoms. The Guardian translated Rohani as saying: "Some of the principles of our constitution have been emphasized while others were neglected and this is why we are facing an imbalance as a result The freedom and rights of people have been ignored but those of the rulers have been emphasized Restricting [people's right] to criticize will only stifle and lead to inefficiency."

Rohani's victory in the June 14 vote has lifted hopes of a thaw in Iran's antagonistic relations with the West that might create openings for defusing its nuclear dispute with world powers. Rohani has pledged a more conciliatory approach than Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, under whose belligerent presidency the Islamic Republic drew ever more punishing international sanctions.

In a further sign of moderation, Rohani said over the weekend he would appoint ministers from across its political spectrum as Iranian voters had chosen that path over extremism. Rohani's pledge of an inclusive cabinet could reassure conservative hardliners who look askance at the endorsement he was granted by reformists in the election.

In turn, reformists will hope to regain some political influence - with the aim of easing repression at home and Iran's isolation abroad - after being sidelined under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who by law could not run for a third consecutive term.

"The future government must operate in the framework of moderation ... [and it] must avoid extremism, and this message is for everyone," Rohani, a former chief nuclear negotiator, said in a speech carried live on state television on Saturday.

Rohani also urged moderation in Iranian policies toward the rest of the world and called for a balance between "realism" and pursuing the ideals of the Islamic Republic. "Moderation in foreign policy is neither submission nor antagonism, neither passivity nor confrontation. Moderation is effective and constructive interaction with the world," he said.

Iran's president-elect Hasan Rohani