Reuters: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused his moderate rivals in Iran's June presidential vote of trying to weaken the Islamic state by wanting a policy of "detente" with the West, Fars news agency reported on Friday.
By Zahra Hosseinian
TEHRAN (Reuters) – President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused his moderate rivals in Iran's June presidential vote of trying to weaken the Islamic state by wanting a policy of "detente" with the West, Fars news agency reported on Friday.
Ahmadinejad's critics, including reformists and some of his conservative backers, say his fiery anti-Western speeches and his denial of the Holocaust have isolated Iran, which is at odds with the West over its disputed nuclear work.
Tehran says its nuclear work is for peaceful purposes only but the West fears Iran is pursuing a secret military program.
"The previous government (of moderate Mohammad Khatami) which followed a detente policy de facto eradicated the goals of the nation and intended to accept a status which others (West) had planned to impose on us," Ahmadinejad said in his first official campaign speech in a sports hall in downtown Tehran.
Ahmadinejad, fighting for re-election in the June 12 vote, will compete against two moderate candidates: former premier Mirhossein Mousavi, former parliament speaker Mehdi Karoubi and conservative former Revolutionary Guards head Mohsen Rezai.
The candidates were approved by a constitutional watchdog on Wednesday after being screened for their allegiance to Iran's Islamic government system and "absolute obedience" to the country's top authority Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Khamenei has called on people to vote for an anti-Western candidate.
"They (reformists) co-operated with them (the West) on Afghanistan and Iraq but the enemies said Iran supported terrorism and called it an axis of evil," Ahmadinejad told thousands of his supporters, who chanted "Death to America."
"All of this happened when Iran was following the policy of detente," Ahmadinejad said, in a clear reference to moderate former president Mohammad Khatami's policy of dialogue and interaction with the West during his 1997 to 2005 presidency.
Khatami has voiced his support for Moussavi and asked all his supporters to vote for the former prime minister.
"I will not make any compromise on Iran's internationally acknowledged rights to pursue civil nuclear technology," said Ahmadinejad, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.
Ahmadinejad came to power in 2005 vowing to share out oil wealth more fairly and a return to Islamic revolutionary values.
Critics say Ahmadinejad's economic policy, including handing out the country's petrodollars have increased inflation.
The hardline president has also been accused of introducing tighter social restrictions. His only conservative rival, Rezai, has said Ahmadinejad would "drag the country over a cliff" if re-elected.
Some 46 million Iranians aged 18 years and older are eligible to vote in the polls, Iran's tenth presidential election since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
(Editing by Louise Ireland)