Iran's ex-nuke negotiator slams Ahmadinejad

Hasan Rowhani denounces prosecution of former member of his negotiating team, accuses president of trying to eliminate rivals.

ahmadinejad victory 224. (photo credit: AP)
ahmadinejad victory 224.
(photo credit: AP)
Iran's former chief nuclear negotiator sharply criticized President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, denouncing the prosecution of a former member of his negotiating team and accusing the hard-line leader of trying to eliminate rivals. The comments by Hasan Rowhani, published Thursday, were the latest in the blow in the mounting rivalry between Ahmadinejad and former president Hashemi Rafsanjani, a powerful figure in Iran's clerical leadership. Rafsanjani's camp, which includes Iran's older more experienced politicians, has increasingly criticized the president for mismanaging the economy and creating enemies in Iran's nuclear standoff with the West. Last week, the government charged former nuclear negotiator Hossein Mousavian with passing classified information to the West. Days before the announcement, Ahmadinejad made a veiled reference to Mousavian and other critics of his nuclear policies, branding them traitors. Rowhani denounced Ahmadinejad's comments, saying, "Only an authorized court can say if somebody is an offender or not." "Considering people as criminal before a verdict by court is a violation (of the law)," he said, according to a number of Iranian papers Thursday, including the independent Etemade Melli. Rowhani also accused the government of a lack of tolerance of opponents. "It is not possible to eliminate all rivals. It is not possible to label rivals as enemies. One cannot manage the country with just a few people. We have to use all ideas and experts," he said. "History advises us that societies always failed when they invent enemies among themselves," said Rowhani. "An imagined enemy causes confrontation between social forces and leads to splits." Mousavian served under Rowhani in the nuclear negotiating team of Ahmadinejad's predecessor, reformist president Mohammad Khatami. Ahmadinejad removed the team when he came to power in 2005, accusing it of making too many compromises. There has been no word on when Mousavian, who is free on bail, would actually be put on trial. Both Rowhani and Mousavian are close allies of Rafsanjani. On Wednesday, the hardline daily Jomhuri-e-Eslami, which generally supports Rafsanjani, also slammed Ahmadinejad for calling Mousavian a traitor. "It is not correct to take judgment about such issues to the press, universities and the public," said an editorial in the paper, which has increasingly criticized Ahmadinejad over the past year. Many conservatives who once supported the hardline president have become increasingly critical of what they describe as rash and ill-advised policies that are harming the economy at home and the nation's relations abroad. Rafsanjani - head of the Assembly of Experts, one of the powerful cleric-run bodies that dominates the country's politics - has emerged as a leader of disillusioned conservatives. In October, Rowhani delivered an unusually sharp rebuke to Ahmadinejad's policies, saying they are turning more countries against Iran and failing to fix the struggling economy. Rowhani is a member of the Supreme National Security Council and sits on the Experts Assembly and the Expediency Council, another influential clerical body.