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IRAN: A day after 22 Bahman rally, a conservative Ahmadinejad rival opens fire

February 12, 2010 | 10:01 am

Iran-mottahari-khabarIf Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad thought he was in the clear after his government managed to overwhelm opposition protesters during Thursday's 22 Bahman rally commemorating the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Tehran, he got a rude awakening Friday. 

A leading conservative rival to Ahmadinejad, lawmaker Ali Mottahari, warned that Iran was not yet out of the clear.

"We cannot claim the crisis is totally over until both sides make up for their mistakes," he said in an interview with Khabaronline (in Persian), the news website affiliated with parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani. "The differences of opinion between the government and [the opposition] might have been eased to some extent, but they still exist. Our statesmen should not imagine that people's massive presence in the Thursday rally reflects the approval of their performance.... The presence of political elite in the rally does not mean there is no longer any criticism or objection towards the regime."

Mottahari recently called on opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi to stop calling for protests for a bit and let government insiders like him take care of Ahmadinejad and his ilk. 

In the interview he seemed to be auditioning to replace them, echoing their calls to restore civil liberties. "The government should respect social freedoms and stop its press bans," he said. "The government should also take action to secure the release of political prisoners and create a climate of friendship and affection."

In a pointed remark apparently aimed at Ahmadinejad's attempts to cut a deal with the West over Iran's nuclear program, Mottahari also hinted that the president was double-crossing the Iranian people, talking tough for domestic audiences while secretly playing footsie with world powers.

"People expect their governments not to seek compromise with big powers," he said. "The government should be honest with people and tell people if it is engaged in behind-the-scenes negotiations with big powers. Nor should the government tie Iran's nuclear issue to normalization of ties with the United States."

-- Los Angeles Times

Photo: Ali Mottahari. Credit: Khabaronline