Iran General NewsAhmadinejad steps up rhetoric against critics at home with...

Ahmadinejad steps up rhetoric against critics at home with threat to expose ‘traitors’

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The Guardian: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s president, raised domestic tensions over the country’s nuclear policy to higher levels yesterday by labelling his opponents “traitors” who are working for the west and threatened to expose them in a political witch-hunt. The Guardian

· Anonymous officials accused of collusion
· Speech highlights tensions within establishment

Robert Tait in Tehran

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s president, raised domestic tensions over the country’s nuclear policy to higher levels yesterday by labelling his opponents “traitors” who are working for the west and threatened to expose them in a political witch-hunt.

In an offensive that exposed the fissures within the Islamic republic’s power structure, he accused “domestic elements” of seeking to sabotage Iran’s uranium enrichment programme and said they had inflicted more damage than its foreign enemies.

“If the domestic elements do not stop imposing pressure over the nuclear issue, they will be unmasked before the Iranian nation,” Ahmadinejad told students at Tehran’s science and industry university.

“The conditions will not remain where we sit back and watch while traitors do whatever they want. One day, eventually, I will reveal what has happened behind the scenes on these issues. It will serve as a lesson for future generations and show what a fierce conflict has occurred.”

The president did not name the alleged culprits but his comments appeared directed at a circle close to Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former president and powerful establishment figure, who has accused Mr Ahmadinejad of endangering the country with his confrontational rhetoric.

Ahmadinejad’s remarks coincided with a call from Rafsanjani for national unity in the face of “very serious” external threats. In an apparent reference to his differences with the president, Rafsanjani said “division” existed inside Iran but internal conflicts could destabilise the country.

“The US has troops based everywhere, we have no specific information about their decisions and we don’t know what is about to happen. Why should we be concerned over (internal) conflicts?” he said. “Differing views have always existed but the Qur’an stresses the avoidance of confrontation. God considers confrontation as a characteristic of hellish people … those who go to hell favour quarrel and conflict.”

His sentiments contrasted with those of Ahmadinejad, who has repeatedly dismissed the possibility of a US military strike against Iran. Ahmadinejad claimed some regime insiders had urged the west to increase the pressure on the country’s nuclear programme while providing inside information about its political system.

“They even sent somebody to the enemy regularly to inform them about what was happening inside the system,” Ahmadinejad said. “We know about the remarks one of them made to the enemy, saying, ‘Why don’t you pursue the matter? Why do you postpone issuing the [UN security council”> resolution and why have you weakened your pressure? You should impose pressure to force them back’.”

Another of Ahmadinejad’s targets appeared to be Hossein Mousavian, a Rafsanjani ally and former nuclear negotiator under the 1997-2005 reformist presidency of Mohammad Khatami, who was detained earlier this year on unspecified espionage charges before being released on bail. “We arrested one person due to espionage in this regard and since then the judge has come under so much pressure to acquit the spy,” he said.

The president may also have been targeting Hassan Rowhani, Iran’s chief negotiator during Khatami’s presidency. Rowhani, who favours compromise, angered Ahmadinejad’s supporters recently by travelling to Berlin for talks with the EU’s foreign policy chief, Javier Solana. But he cancelled the meeting after pro-government media accused him of pursuing a parallel diplomatic agenda. While moderates have urged compromise Ahmadinejad has declared Iran’s nuclear case “closed” and last week claimed it had reached the landmark of operating 3,000 centrifuges.

Last month, he appeared to have scored a victory after Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, resigned following rows over strategy. But Mr Larijani retains a role as representative on the supreme national security council of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters.

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