Sunday, January 09, 2005

Khatami Promises Rafsanjani "Good and Fair Election"

President says Iran on threshold of great developments: " Diversity of ideas more important than diversity of candidates

Talking to reporters after submitting the budget bill Khatami stressed the necessity for the participation of a variety of candidates in the upcoming presidential election, expressing hope that voters would pay more attention to the candidates’ plans instead of focusing on their personalities.

After presenting the national budget bill for the next Iranian calendar year (starts March 21, 2005) to parliament and introducing his nominee for transportation minister, Ahmad Sadegh Bonab, Khatami told reporters, “I am quite sure that candidates from all political groups and parties will take part in the election.”

Asked if he would support former president and current Expediency Council Chairman Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani in the election, Khatami noted that his duty as president is to hold a fair and free presidential election.

“As president, I do not have the right to support anyone. Mr. Rafsanjani, despite all his kindness, never supported me as a presidential hopeful (during the 1997 presidential election). However, I would like to thank him for holding a good and fair election during his presidency.”

Khatami stated that he still believes in reformist principles although “people have become partially discouraged” about the reform process.

He went on to say that a free and fair election would make people realize their votes are effectual.

Rather than the diversity of candidates in elections it’s the diversity of ideas and thoughts that is important, he noted.

In addition, each candidate should guarantee that his ideas could be implemented if he were to be elected, the president added.

Elaborating on his earlier remarks, in which he observed that some reformists have made statements that are also heard from the enemy camp, Khatami said that some people have lost hope in the Islamic Republic and therefore make remarks that are similar to what the enemies want.

The attempt to overthrow the Islamic Republic with the aim of establishing another system in Iran is one of the biggest plots against the country’s Islamic system, he stated.

Efforts should be made to improve the system’s democratic image within the Islamic Republic itself, by way of the current Constitution, Khatami added.

“When we speak about reforms, we mean the nation wants the current system but seeks to create reforms within the Islamic Republic that would be closer to democratic principles,” he explained.

The reforms have their roots in society and therefore will certainly continue, Khatami said.

If the government is in harmony with reforms, then everything becomes easier, otherwise reforms will just continue on their own way, he added.

Saying he had selected his nominee for the next transportation minister from among the staff of the ministry, Khatami noted that increasing coordination and consensus in the Roads and Transportation Ministry was his main aim in introducing Sadegh Bonab for the post.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Khatami said he would continue on his current path, particularly in the international arena, after leaving the presidency.

Asked about a U.S.-sponsored conference recently held in an Arab country in which Iran’s upcoming presidential election was discussed, he stated that the United States is not in a position to hold such a conference and that it is obviously interference in Iran’s internal affairs.

On Iran’s nuclear dossier, the president noted that Iran will not renounce its right to peacefully make use of nuclear energy or to access the nuclear fuel cycle.

“Iran’s nuclear negotiations with the EU have not reached a deadlock. Iran only wants nuclear technology meant for peaceful purposes while Europe seeks objective guarantees from the country. We will continue the current process and believe that the Europeans would also like to resolve the issue in an appropriate manner.”

On the issue of Iraq, he said, “We have repeatedly announced that for us the security and stability of Iraq is the same as the security and stability of Iran.”

Turning to the recent remarks of certain Iraqi officials, including the country’s defense minister, accusing Iran of interference in Iraq’s internal affairs, the president stated that the claims are baseless, unverified, and meant to put a damper on Iraqis’ enthusiasm to participate in the election.

He also expressed hope that the Iraqi general election would be held on schedule, saying the poll could pave the way for the establishment of a democratic government in the country, encourage the occupiers to withdraw from Iraq, and promote regional and international cooperation to reconstruct the war-torn country.

In response to a question about the recent dispute over the National Geographic Society’s decision to use an unacceptable alternative name for the Persian Gulf, the president said the Persian Gulf is a historical issue and “fortunately the magazine has amended its mistake.”

“The issue was naturally brought up in bad faith, but everyone knows the Persian Gulf is Persian and we insist upon that.”

Asked about Iran’s position on Palestine, Khatami said Israel is committing a serious crime by massacring and oppressing the Palestinians, who are the main owners of the occupied territories.

These crimes are approved by certain powers, but Iran seeks peace and security in Palestine and supports the Palestinians’ right to determine their own destiny."