Khatami victory could block efforts to stop nuclear program
Top Israeli defense official fears Iran election win for reformist leader.
By YAAKOV KATZ
A victory by Muhammad Khatami in the upcoming Iranian presidential elections would likely derail international efforts to stop Iran's race toward nuclear power, a top Israeli defense official involved in those efforts has told The Jerusalem Post.
Earlier this week, Khatami, who held the presidency from 1997 to 2005, was reported to be seriously considering running in the June elections. Khatami is a popular leader in the reformist camp and has been a vocal critic of incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Despite Khatami's popularity and Ahmadinejad's economic policy failures, the battle for the office is far from over. The reformist camp in Iran is divided among a number of factions. One of them is led by former parliament speaker Mehdi Karoubi, chairman of the Etemad-e-Meli (National Confidence) party, who has also declared his bid for the presidency.
But the Israeli official warned that if Khatami won, he would likely succeed in reducing the level of international pressure on Iran to stop its enrichment of uranium and pursuit of nuclear capability.
"People tend to forget that Khatami as president also promoted the nuclear program," the official said. "If he wins, he would succeed in laundering the program in the eyes of the international community. In comparison to Ahmadinejad, he appears more moderate."
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