Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Rafsanjani Pledges 'Interactive' Diplomacy

Rafsanjani Pledges �Interactive� Diplomacy: "Rafsanjani Pledges ‘Interactive’ Diplomacy

Siavosh Ghazi
Agence France Presse, Arab News
TEHRAN, 31 May 2005 — Leading Iranian presidential candidate Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani released his election manifesto yesterday, promising an “interactive and constructive diplomacy” but without mentioning relations with the United States.

In a 24-page “pact with the people”, the top cleric also vowed to “effectively” defend human rights, improve freedom of speech, boost the role of women in public life, solve unemployment, press on with privatizations and lure more foreign investors. The presidential election takes place on June 17.

Rafsanjani, seen as a pragmatic conservative who favors improved ties with the outside world, said that “the foreign policy of the government must be founded on an “active, interactive and constructive diplomacy”.

But conspicuously absent from the lengthy text was any reference to the United States - with whom relations have been cut since 1980. The issue of ties with the United States remains highly contentious, and is in principle a matter that can only be decided upon by supreme leader Ali Khamenei.

Although Khamenei is seen as resisting any thaw in relation with Washington, there has been mounting speculation that Rafsanjani — who has gained a reputation of being a savvy deal maker — may be prepared to address the subject if he wins. Rafsanjani’s only other comment on the future of Iran’s relations with the West was that he intended to “develop political and economic relations with industrialized countries and use their technology and capital to the best of our common interests.”

Reaching out to Iran’s women, Rafsanjani — who has already served as Iran’s president from 1989 to 1997 —promised to “increase the role of women in national decision-making.” Regarding individual rights, he pledged to “prevent the government from intervening in private life”, “protect individual and public rights”, “reinforce freedom of expression by improving the status of the press within the constitution” and “effectively defend human rights and freedoms that are enshrined in the constitution.”

Rafsanjani said that he also wanted to “solve the unemployment problem”, “control inflation and raise the purchasing power of Iranians”, bring in foreign investment and liberalize and privatize parts of the state-dominated economy. Improving social security was also mentioned. Campaigning for the election is already under way, with informal opinion polls in the national press — to be taken with a pinch of salt — putting Rafsanjani ahead. The hard-line candidates are Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, Ali Larijani, Mahmud Ahmadi Nejad and Mohsen Rezai plus moderate former Parliament Speaker Mehdi Karoubi."