Iran ex-nuke negotiator: Ahmadinejad harming Iran
Hasan Rowhani says Iranian leader failed to privatize economy as required under the constitution and didn't use opportunities at the international level to improve Iran's standing. 'Careless, uncalculated and unstudied remarks and slogans have posed many costs on the nation and the country,' he says
Iran's former nuclear negotiator harshly rebuked Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, saying the hardline president's policies have done more harm than good in his three years in office.
Hasan Rowhani said the Iranian leader missed out on "golden" opportunities to develop the Persian state. His remarks were just the latest criticism among a growing tide Ahmadinejad faces at home ahead of the 2009 presidential elections.
Speaking to a meeting Monday of the Moderation and Development Party, the former negotiator singled out Iran's high inflation - a fact despite huge oil revenues. He said Ahmadinejad failed to privatize the economy as required under the constitution and didn't use opportunities at the international level to improve Iran's standing. All this is very harmful to Iran, Rowhani said.
"Why are people's pockets empty and their dignity on sale," Rowhani asked in his speech. "Careless, uncalculated and unstudied remarks and slogans have posed many costs on the nation and the country."
Ahmadinejad has pursued a hard-line foreign policy, calling for Israel to be "wiped off the map" and describing the Holocaust as a "myth," Which has brought international condemnation of Iran.
He has also dismissed as "worthless papers" the UN Security Council resolutions imposing sanctions against Iran for its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment.
Elected in 2005 on a populist agenda that promised to bring oil revenues to every family, eradicate poverty and tackle unemployment, Ahmadinejad is now seen as having failed to fulfill those pledges.
He is being challenged not only by reformers but by the same conservatives who paved the way for his election victory and who now say he has concentrated too much on fiery, anti-US And anti-Israel rhetoric and not enough on the economy.
'Unbelievable opportunities were lost'
Still, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has given unprecedented public support for Ahmadinejad, urging him last month to pursue a second term in elections next year.
Rowhani said Ahmadinejad's government was selling crude oil at $120 a barrel while the budget had anticipated only $20 a barrel. Paradoxically, Iranians are poorer, the economy is in tatters and the country has steered away from its goal of a better life for Iranians.
Rowhani is known as a pragmatist and an ally of former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a rival to Ahmadinejad. Saudi Arabia has a surplus of $870 billion because of higher oil revenues, Rowhani said, while the Iranian government has little currency deposits and has been spending oil revenues on imports instead of controlling inflation, boosting production and improving the economy.
"In the past three years, golden, big, unbelievable opportunities ... Were lost," Rowhani said. A copy of his speech was made available to The Associated Press on Tuesday.
Iran's Central Bank last week put the inflation rate at 27.6 percent - the highest figure released by authorities to date.
Despite Khamenei's backing, Ali Akbar Nateq Nouri, a top conservative cleric close to the supreme leader, last week criticized Ahmadinejad and said the president's economic policies threaten to keep Iran from becoming a regional superpower by 2025.
The high inflation is blamed on the government injecting liquidity into the society in hopes of creating new jobs, something economists say they have repeatedly warned the president against.
Under Iran's constitution, the government is required to move toward privatization, but Rowhani said government affiliates - not the private sector - were being awarded shares in the "privatized" firms.
Rowhani also said Ahmadinejad failed to exploit what he described as the weakest US position since 1970s because of America's entanglement in Iraq, and work toward Iran's national interests.