IRAN: Ahmadinejad and Rafsanjani's close encounter
August 17, 2009 | 10:26 am
Don't be fooled by the smiles. Everyone in Tehran's political circles is buzzing about the awkward encounter Monday between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, reportedly the first time the pair were under the same roof in months.
Photos from state news agencies show them exchanging pleasantries as others look on, with hints of trepidation on some faces. There's still a sea of bad blood between these guys, and it wouldn't be surprising if some sitting nearby stiffened up, fearing the worst.
Rafsanjani (at far left in photo) and Ahmadinejad (front row, center), who by all accounts share mutual and extreme animosity, sat with just Sadegh Larijani separating them. The occasion was the inauguration of Larijani as the country's new judiciary chief.
Rafsanjani, who chairs the powerful Expediency Council and the Assembly of Experts, skipped Ahmadinejad's inauguration this month and backed opposition figure Mir-Hossein Mousavi in the disputed June 12 presidential elections.
Before the election, Ahmadienejad called Rafsanjani a crook on live television.
The two have been at loggerheads since 2005, when Ahmadinejad beat Rafsanjani for the presidency.
Despite the apparent exchange of pleasantries, Ahmadinejad didn't try to gloss over his differences with Rafsanjani.
"We should join hands to eliminate corruption ... and respectfully act against those who institutionalize the culture of breaking the law in the society," he said, according to state television. "If we can do this then acting against lower-ranking people is not a problem."
Ahmadinejad and other officials in his government hurriedly exited the proceedings before Rafsanjani began to deliver his speech, according to the Mehr news agency, skipping the closing of the ceremony. The Iranian Labor News Agency said Ahmadinejad also arrived 68 minutes late to the ceremony.
The famous and well-connected Larijani clan despises Ahmadinejad as reckless, arrogant and coarse.
"Nobody should allow himself and dare to rule against the law to deny the citizens their rights," Larijani said in his speech.
"Such [lawbreakers] should bear in mind that they will be brought to justice soon, and I will show no mercy to offenders in this important mission," he added.
Many are wondering whether he'll follow through on such vows or roll over when confronted by radicals such as Ahmadinejad and his circle, who appeared to repeatedly cow Larijani's predecessor, Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, into submission.
-- Borzou Daragahi in Beirut
Photos: At top and middle, Rafsanjani and Ahmadinejad exchange smiles at the swearing-in ceremony for the new judiciary chief. Credit: Hamid Forootan / Iranian Students News Agency and Islamic Republic News Agency. Bottom photo: Ahmadinejad skipped part of the ceremony. Credit: Islamic Republic News Agency