Khatami scared 248.88 ap.
(photo credit: AP [file])
The top reformist candidate in Iran's presidential race has criticized hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over the country's international isolation.
The comments were the first by Mohammad Khatami about the president since Khatami entered the race last weekend. They signaled that his campaign will likely focus on Iranians' worries that Ahmadinejad's fiery anti-Western rhetoric has worsened the country's status in the world at a time when Iran is suffering economic woes.
Khatami, a liberal cleric who was president from 1997-2005, told a group of his supporters that "the current situation in the country is not desirable," according to Khatami's Web site.
Khatami warned at the meeting late Wednesday that if the situation continues, the country's "social capital and international reputation will be damaged even more." He said Iran needs active diplomacy to decrease "international pressures and isolation."
Khatami also assured the country's clerical leadership that he would not go beyond the ruling establishment's red lines. "We are working within the framework of the system and we are loyal to constitution and leadership," he said, according to the Web site.
Khatami was trying to deflect accusations from hard-liners that reformists aim to undermine - or even overturn - the clerical rule installed by the 1979 Islamic revolution, headed by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters.
Khatami is seen as the sole reformist candidate capable of beating Ahmadinejad, who has the support of Khamenei and hard-liners.
Under Ahmadinejad, Iran has suffered international isolation, skyrocketing prices and disputes over the country's nuclear program, which the US and some of its allies fears masks a nuclear weapons pursuit. Iran denies the charge. Still, Ahmadinejad enjoys popularity among the poor for his government's direct cash payments to impoverished sectors and among those admire him for standing up to the West.