Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has accused his election opponent of corruption, lying, and ganging up with others to undermine his presidency.
For his part, his rival, former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, has accused Ahmadinejad of taking the country toward dictatorship, and damaging Iran’s reputation with Ahmadinejad's infamous rants denying the Holocaust, all while he posed for pictures with U.S. servicemen during an official visit to Iraq last year.
The presidential election is scheduled to take place in Iran on June 12.
The extraordinary debate, televised live on Wednesday evening on Iranian television, marked a first in Iranian politics since the 1979 revolution, with virtually 90 minutes of uninterrupted airing of each other’s dirty laundry.
Ahmadinejad lumped Mousavi in with two earlier “reformist” presidents, Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, and Mohammad Khatami, and accused the three of conspiring to bring down his presidency.
“Today there is not only Mr. Mousavi confronting me, since there are three consecutive governments of Mr. Mousavi, Mr. Hashemi, and Mr. Khatami, all against me,” he said.
Mousavi led the government as prime minister from 1981-1989. After the position of prime minister was abolished, Hashemi-Rafsanjani took over as president in 1989, with Mousavi as a top adviser. Khatami succeeded Rafsanjani in 1997, again taking Mousavi as an advisor to his government.
“I am not faced with a singe candidate, but with a group, whose main axis is Mr. Hashemi, who moved against me relying on the cooperation of Mr. Mousavi and Mr. Khatami,” Ahmadinejad said.
Ahmadinejad accused Rafsanjani’s son of corrupt dealings with the Norwegian state-owned oil company, STATOIL, a scandal that rocked Iran after the Norwegian police raided STATOIL headquarters in 2003 and discovered payments to a consulting company in the Turks and Caicos Islands with links to Rafsanjani’s son.
Holding up a file and a photograph of Mousavi’s popular wife, Zahra Rahnavard, a university president, Ahmadinejad claimed that her doctorate degree was fake because she had entered a graduate program without taking the highly-competitive entrance exam.
That led Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to make an unprecedented statement this morning to the state-run media, urging the candidates to refrain from personal attacks.
In earlier campaign appearances, Mousavi has accused Ahmadinejad of squandering more than $200 billion in Iran’s oil revenues since taking over as president four years ago.
During the debate, the former prime minister made several new allegations.
Mousavi claimed that Ahmadinejad sent a letter to Barack Obama through the Swiss ambassador in Tehran last fall, offering to hold direct negotiations with the new U.S. administration to resolve U.S.-Iran tensions.
Mousavi also reminded viewers of Ahmadinejad’s dire public warnings before he made an official visit to Iraq in March 2008, that the United States was planning to kidnap him.
Instead, the president’s plane was refueled in Iraq by the U.S. military, and Ahmadinejad “posed for pictures” with U.S. servicemen and officers, Mousavi said.
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