Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Gulf Times Newspaper - Rafsanjani promises to forge better world ties

Gulf Times Newspaper - Qatar, Gulf and World News - Gulf/Arab World: "Home:Gulf/Arab World

Rafsanjani promises to forge better world ties Published: Wednesday, 1 June, 2005, 11:36 AM Doha Time

TEHRAN: Iran’s leading presidential candidate Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani launched a reformist election platform yesterday, promising to create more jobs, ease social restrictions and forge better relations with the world.

Rafsanjani, who was president from 1989 to 1997, borrowed many of the same campaign slogans which propelled reformist cleric Mohamed Khatami to landslide wins in 1997 and 2001.

But the pragmatic conservative, who holds a commanding lead in opinion polls ahead of the June 17 elections, gave few details in a 14-point manifesto presented on state television.

“Times have changed ... By adopting new methods, we should establish democracy,” Rafsanjani said, stressing policies from his first two terms as president needed to be updated for modern times.

“My programme is to boost the economy ... and improve ties with the world.”

Rafsanjani, 70, is considered the most moderate of the five conservative candidates hoping to replace Khatami, who is barred from standing for a third consecutive term. Three reformists are also running.

But conservatives and reformists alike have adopted strikingly similar campaign postures, pledging to ease tensions with the West, reduce government intervention in the state-heavy economy and improve civil rights.

“Young people are our assets ... we cannot expect their high performance, while limiting their freedoms,” Rafsanjani said.

Khatami’s attempts to create a freer society have repeatedly foundered on opposition from hardliners who control the courts, armed forces and broadcast media, leading many young voters to turn their back on politics altogether.

According to official statistics, about two thirds of Iran’s population of more than 67mn are under 25. The minimum voting age is 15.

“I do not think he (Rafsanjani) is the powerful man he used to be. Under our law, the president has not much power,” said Amira, a 24-year-old student.

Rafsanjani, a mid-ranking cleric, who has held most of the top political positions, also promised women a greater role in Iran’s male-dominated society.

“The government should pave the way for women’s presence in all fields, where men are already active,” he said.

Iran, branded a rogue state by the US which accuses it of sponsoring ‘terrorism’ and developing nuclear weapons, wants to play an active international role, Rafsanjani said.

“We should have new interactions with the globe,” he said.

The US severed relations with Iran shortly after the country’s 1979 Islamic revolution and any suggestion of talks with Washington is highly sensitive. – Reuters"