Hassan Rouhani was sworn in as Iran's president on August 4, 2013, promising "moderation" and more engagement with the world.

Rouhani was born in 1948 into a family that opposed the former Shah of Iran, and has held various roles in government since the Islamic Revolution. Before winning the presidential elections, he was a member of the Supreme National Security Council, a position he held since 1989.

Rouhani was born in Sorkheh in northern Iran and began studying religion at an early age. In the 1960s he went to religious seminaries and began attending classes taught by prominent Shia scholars. In 1969, he attended the University of Tehran and received his bachelor’s degree in judicial law three years later.

In addition to religious studies, he was interested in learning modern sciences, going on to receive a master’s degree in public law along with a doctorate at Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland.

He began his political career in the 1960s by following the exiled leader of the Islamic movement, Ayatollah Khomeini. Rouhani continued to be outspoken against the Shah up until 1977, when he was forced to flee Iran after publically declaring Khomeini an “imam”.

After the overthrow of the Shah in 1979, Rouhani returned to Iran to help stabilise the fledgling Islamic Republic.

Since the government takeover of the Islamic Revolution, Rouhani has held multiple positions, including Secretary and Representative of the Supreme National Security Council, member of the Assembly of Experts, member of the Expediency Discernment Council, President of the Center for Strategic Research, and multiple roles in Parliament.

After the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in August 2005, Rouhani, an outspoken critic of the president, resigned his post as Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council after having held the job for 16 years. Rouhani also served as Iran’s top nuclear negotiator from October 2003 up until his resignation from the SNSC.

Rouhani earned the nickname “the diplomat sheikh” because of his clerical background and leading role in nuclear negotiations. And he made diplomacy a theme of his first address as president.

"The only way for interaction with Iran is dialogue on an equal footing, confidence-building and mutual respect as well as reducing antagonism and aggression," Rouhani told parliament after taking his oath of office.

"If you want the right response, don't speak with Iran in the language of sanctions, speak in the language of respect," he said.

Source: Al Jazeera