AFP: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was defiant Wednesday in the face of mounting criticism of his vitriolic attacks on his political rivals, unleashing a new tirade in his last campaign appearance.
By Jay Deshmukh
TEHRAN (AFP) — Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was defiant Wednesday in the face of mounting criticism of his vitriolic attacks on his political rivals, unleashing a new tirade in his last campaign appearance.
Speaking on television ahead of the official close of campaigning for Friday's election, an unrepentant Ahmadinejad again hit out at his main challenger, moderate former premier Mir Hossein Mousavi through two close associates — his wife and former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.
Wrapping up his campaign for an election invigorated by a series of often fiery television debates with his three challengers, the hardline incumbent charged that the "entire election campaign has been against one person."
Defending his government's record against the criticism it has taken from the other candidates, Ahmadinejad insisted that, unlike them, he was prepared to stand up for Iran's interests, as he had during his first four-year term by pursuing its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes over Western opposition.
"The report card of this government is very colourful," he said.
"We have achieved many things. We were successful in the nuclear case, but they (rivals) even opposed these glories.
"Is nuclear development a lie? Is having technology to send satellite a lie?," he asked.
He said his rivals had "insulted the Iranian nation and trampled Iranian rights. I am here to defend Iranian rights."
Ahmadinejad said he knew that there were "problems with the economy."
"But we are taking the correct path. We have worked for years on infrastructure, unemployment and housing. We have massive programmes and we will continue with it," he said.
Ahmadinejad again attacked his main rival Mousavi by questioning his academic wife Zahra Rahnavard's educational qualifications.
"I showed a copy of the degree document," he said referring to her doctorate.
"If somebody takes a degree without going through the process, it is illegal. I want people to know what happened."
Rahnavard has threatened to sue Ahmadinejad if he does not apologise to her and her husband for the comments on her doctorate he first made in a televised debate with Mousavi last week.
Ahmadinejad also attacked Iran's Azad University set up by Rafsanjani in the 1980s in an implicit rebuke of the former president.
"Where does the money taken from the students by the university go? The university gives counterfeit degrees to some people and tarnishes its own image," he charged.
Ahmadinejad had attacked Rafsanjani during the debate with Mousavi, saying his rival's supporters, including Rafsanjani's sons, had received financial privileges in the past.
An angry Rafsanjani complained to Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei earlier Wednesday warning of "social upheavals" if Ahmadinejad's "lies" went unrectified.
Ahmadinejad charged that his rivals were clutching at straws as he stood poised for re-election.
"We have information they have found out that they have lost," he said, calling on his supporters to remain calm and not to retaliate against his detractors.
"No one has the right to attack anyone in my name. Keep cool and inshallah (God willing) in a few days we will have glorious days," he said.
Rafsanjani had expressed unusually strong criticism of the incumbent president in his letter to the supreme leader, expressing fury that he had been denied the right of reply to Ahmadinejad's comments on state television ahead of the election and asking Khamenei why he had not intervened.
"I also asked state television to allocate time to defend those accused according to the law… but these suggestions were not accepted and the (supreme) leader chose to remain silent," he wrote.
"Even if I keep quiet, part of the people, groups and parties will undoubtedly not bear this situation any more and set off social upheavals, examples of which can be seen in street rallies and universities," he warned.
Rafsanjani, who was defeated by Ahmadinejad in a second-round run off in the 2005 presidential election, urged Khamenei to resolve the spat.
Amid the campaign mudslinging, Washington said it was closely watching the election.
"The president … believes that free and fair elections and the robust task of democracy and picking a government for yourself is tremendously important," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.
But he declined to say who Washington would prefer to win. "I am not going to get into the candidates," he said.