“Ahmadinejad camp continues attacks on Khatami administration”
June 10, 2009, Simons Centre Report
     After five rounds of face-to-face debates held between the four presidential hopefuls and broadcast live on Iranian television, another debate is gaining momentum, this time between the political elite allied with each of the candidates. Mahmoud Va’ezi, Foreign Diplomacy Chief at the Center for Strategic Research (a subbranch of Iran’s Expediency Council, which is headed by former chief nuclear negotiator Hassan Rohani) and a supporter of reformist candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi, has rejected President Ahmadinejad’s criticism of the previous Khatami government’s “mishandling” of the Iranian nuclear crisis, saying that “when the Ahmadinejad administration fails to fulfill its promises after four years, naturally, it tries to blame it on the others.”
     Va’ezi argues that Ahmadinejad has focused on foreign policy issues throughout the debates to cover up his administration’s weaknesses in solving Iran’s economic problems. On Ahmadinejad’s nuclear policy, the former deputy foreign minister said that Iran should leave behind the current administration’s “harmful” approach and instead utilize logical means to diffuse international tensions and reduce the costs of nuclear development.
     Former deputy foreign minister Sadegh Kharazi represented Mousavi in a debate on the foreign policies of Ahmadinejad, lashing out at the incumbent for his anti-Holocaust comments, which he said have pulled Israel out of isolation and isolated the Islamic Republic instead. Kharazi emphasized that Iran owes most of its nuclear achievements to the Khatami administration and criticized Ahmadinejad for making the nuclear program look like a threat to the rest of the world. Responding to Kharazi, Sadegh Salimi, who represented Ahmadinejad in the debate, accused the Khatami government of being intimidated in their nuclear policy and bowing to US pressure.
     Another pro-reform analyst, Javid Ghorbanoghlu, called on the next Iranian president to return the country to its deserved regional and international status and repair the damages it has suffered over the past four years. “We should tell the world that we do not want a war,” said Ghorbanoghlu, who served as a senior diplomat in the Khatami administration. He added that Ahmadinejad’s foreign policy decisions, including his Middle East policies, have become “food for controversy and trouble.” According to Ghorbanoghlu, despite Ahmadinejad’s repeated trips to Arab states in the Persian Gulf, Iran’s relations with the Arab world, especially Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE, have deteriorated. On Ahmadinejad’s participation in the UN anti-racism conference in Geneva, he said: “Throwing a shoe at George Bush is considered by Iranian television as a humiliating insult against the US, but when things are thrown at Ahmadinejad, [the state media] call it a sign of [Iran’s] power. How can two similar things be interpreted so differently?”
     Back in the conservative camp, Abolfazl Zohrehvand, who served as Iran’s ambassador to Italy during the first two years of Ahmadinejad’s presidency, defended the current government’s “expansionist” foreign policies. Zohrehvand said that improving Iran’s relations with Latin American countries, such as Venezuela and Bolivia, shows the strength of Tehran’s diplomacy and broadens the battlefront between Iran and the US, which would otherwise “strangle Iran within its own geographical borders.”

“Khatami, foreign relations at center of new election issue”
June 1, 2009, Simons Centre Report
     A visit to France in 2005 by former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami has become a controversial issue in the presidential election campaign. The issue drew attention when President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in a televised campaign speech last week, accused his reformist predecessor of humiliating Iran by acting naively, saying, “the French president [Jacques Chirac] was standing on top of the stairs and Iran’s president…had to climb several flights of stairs to reach him; that kind of behavior is insulting to us.”
     In a prompt response to the remarks, the campaign of presidential hopeful Mir-Hossein Mousavi—who is supported by Khatami—published pictures of the 2005 encounter between the two presidents in which they both stand at the foot of the stairs of the Elise palace in Paris. Khatami himself reacted by saying, “There is a great difference between a president who is welcomed by his French counterpart at the foot of the Elise Palace steps and another president who receives the worst kinds of insults in a foreign university [Columbia University].”
     Iran’s former ambassador to Paris, Sadegh Kharrazi, accused Ahmadinejad of twisting the truth and damaging Iran’s prestige during visits to Italy and the UAE, where, according to Kharrazi, Ahmadinejad “did not receive a head-of-state welcome.”

“Candidates weigh in on nuclear issue, foreign policy”
May 29, 2009, Simons Centre Report
     With Iran’s former chief nuclear negotiator Hassan Rowhani challenging President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on the latter’s nuclear policies this week, Iran’s nuclear program continues to be a heated part of the presidential campaign debates. Rowhani told reporters on Wednesday that he was ready to hold a live television debate with Ahmadinejad in order to enlighten the public on the nuclear issue, saying, “if the president is ready to defend his remarks about the system’s nuclear policy, I will be ready to confront him.” Lashing out at the Iranian president for turning the nuclear issue into “a tool in the election and in political games,” Rowhani added that Iran’s nuclear program was the result of long-term and strategic plans and that all the previous administrations had played a role in its development.
     Rowhani’s comments were made in reaction to Ahmadinejad’s televised campaign speech on Monday, in which he accused the previous government of suspending Iran’s nuclear activities under pressure from the West. In his speech, which was dominated by foreign policy issues, including the US military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan and the nuclear standoff, Ahmadinejad vowed that his government would continue its hard-line nuclear policies with “utmost self-confidence and hope.”
     Former Prime Minister Mir-Hossein Mousavi, who is Ahmadinejad’s most serious rival in this election, has meanwhile called the government’s foreign policy “disastrous.” Mousavi told a crowd of supporters in West Azerbaijan province on Tuesday that the Ahmadinejad administration had undermined Iran’s interaction with the rest of the world by adopting a populist and senseless foreign policy. Mousavi blamed Ahmadinejad for endangering the interests of Iran and the entire Middle East region with his unmeasured remarks at international events such as the recent UN anti-racism conference in Geneva, where the president repeated his anti-Israeli stances.
     Also criticizing Ahmadinejad for his rhetoric on the nuclear issue, Abbas Abdi, a senior adviser to presidential hopeful Mehdi Karroubi, said the government’s nuclear policies have brought more harm than benefit to the country and that there is no reason to support a nuclear program that jeopardizes Iran’s national interests. The fourth candidate in the presidential race, Mohsen Rezai, has suggested that an Iran-based international consortium supervise the state’s uranium enrichment. Rezai told reporters in Kermanshah province on Wednesday that Iran should pave the way for the removal of international sanctions by cooperating with the European countries on the nuclear issue. He added that the positive changes in the US policies should be followed by similar changes in Iran’s strategies and policies in its foreign relations.


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