Iran's new president-elect seen as bridge-builder

What does the new Iranian president mean for ... 02:04

(CBS News) LONDON -- Say goodbye to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president who has taunted America for eight years. Over the weekend, Iranians elected a new kind of president.

By the time he cast his own ballot, Hassan Rowhani knew he was on a roll. During the final days of his campaign, his rallies were drawing vast crowds of young people, convinced he could bring reform.

Iranian President-elect Hassan Rowhani speaks to the press following a visit to the Khomeini mausoleum, in Tehran, June 16, 2013. ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images

Over the past eight years, under hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran has refused to open its nuclear program to international scrutiny. The resulting sanctions have crippled the economy.

On Monday, Rowhani signaled a new, more open approach.

"We are ready to show more transparency to the world," he said at a press conference.

Iran president-elect Hasan Rowhani suggests new "transparency" over nuclear program
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Who is Hasan Rowhani, Iran's new president-elect?

Rowhani is 64 years old, a cleric with a law degree from Scotland. He's also known as a bridge-builder, who was once Iran's chief nuclear negotiator.

Back in 2003, he put that program on pause to pave the way for talks with the West.

Sir Richard Dalton, then Britain's ambassador to Iran, said Rowhani could steer the way to talks again.

"Provided the United States and its negotiating partners come forward a little way to meet Iran, it should be possible to get a first-stage, confidence-building agreement on the nuclear question," Dalton said.

Asked specifically Monday about Iran's relations with the United States, Rowhani said, "There is an old wound between the two countries that needs to be healed."

Jubilant Iranians spilled into the streets to celebrate Rowhani's win, though they won't know for some time just how much of a reformer he will turn out to be.

The economic sanctions have really hurt. Iran's currency has lost more than half its value in the last couple of years, so there's real pressure to get the economy back on its feet. The only way to do that is through the negotiating table at nuclear talks.

  • Elizabeth Palmer
    Elizabeth Palmer

    Elizabeth Palmer has been a CBS News correspondent since August 2000. She has been based in London since late 2003, after having been based in Moscow (2000-03). Palmer reports primarily for the "CBS Evening News."