1. He arrived in Tehran’s Mehrabad airport for a state visit by the Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, in 2002, three months after Iran and Spain signed a joint declaration of “friendly relations”. Spain was now overwhelmingly dependent on the United States for its energy supplies. Iran’s economy, crippled by crippling international sanctions, was struggling to recover, and its bilateral relationship with European Union countries was hardly good.
His first speech as president, on 26 June, was to the parliament. Although he was also addressing the parliament, the vast majority of his 70-minute speech was directed towards the EU.
President Rouhani on a visit to Afghanistan in 2016. Photograph: TOLOnews/Reuters
2. At a security conference in India in 2003, he declared: “I express my pledge and promise to our peoples that we will never bow to international pressure.” This quickly became a regular feature of his speeches. But, for a country with vast reserves of oil and gas, Iran had yet to fully industrialise.
3. Rouhani was a serious contender for a first-round victory in the Iranian presidential election in 2005, when he stood against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Rouhani backed his current vice-president, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, in the election, which Ahmadinejad won. But when Ahmadinejad suddenly resigned as president later that year, Mashaei replaced him.
Ahead of Ahmadinejad’s last public appearance, in 2009, Rouhani received the presidential seal from his successor, so it is unclear whether the stamps were meant to be a parting gift from the current president to his predecessor.