TEHRAN, 6 Dec. (IPS) Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, in a major speech that could well be the last before the end of his presidency next May, bitterly criticized the hard liners as well as some of the reformists for the sad situation the Islamic Republic both at home and in the world.
Talking to a rare gathering of students on the occasion of the national “Day of Students”, he forcefully defended the action of his tenure of his presidency during the last eight years, he said on Monday that the extremists on both sides of the establishment brought the Islamic Republic from a zenith of respect and prestige in both the world and among the Muslim nations to an abyss where the United States placed it among evil state.
This was Khatami’s first visit to the University on this occasion in the past tow years, amidst protest by some students associations, including some in the line of reforms.
The Government could arrest opponent, but this is not our policy
“In the one hand, you have the president of the regime who calmly listens to criticism, even when some of them utterly unjustified and on the other, there are third rank organs at forces and the Judiciary that for the slightest criticism sends people to prisons”, he observed amidst applauses and shouts of students from all ideological and political walks.
To students accusing him of constant retreat in the face of the ruling conservatives and weakness, he said the Government is not weak, but wish to place the country in a confrontation position.
“The Government could arrest opponent, but this is not our policy”, he observed, adding that it is the others which owe him, not the reverse.
“Thanks to the Almighty, my term is reaching its end. But I think that those who opposed the people and the reforms they called for owe me. The same is true with some reformists who, by turning every thing into politics, also damaged the nation”, the embattled President further noted, according to reports from both the official news agency IRNA and the students news agency ISNA.
In order to highlight his plight, he said during the last legislative elections that he described as “not satisfactory”, the Council of the Guardians ignored directives from the leader who had ordered fair and just elections.
Mr. Khatami was referring to the Guardian’s massive rejection of reformist candidates in favour of conservative runners and affiliated, mostly former officers of the Revolutionary Guards.
“I did my best to convince the Guardian Council to revise its stand. We held a meeting with members of the Council of the Guardians in presence of the Supreme Leader who urged them to shift their attitude. They accepted it in the meeting, but, they reneged on their promise later", Mr. Khatami explained.
Defending vigorously the theocratic system of the Islamic Republic, he said, "In the Islam in which I believe in, the vote of the people is not a formality, and all the systems of the government should rely on public vote", the President said, adding that the only way to save the country is democracy.
Innovation in religion urgently needs to reconcile religion and democracy, he said, adding, "There is no need to change the divine religion but our judgment and insight should undergo changes and be reformed to match the present world”, he said, taking the situation of women in Muslim societies as an example of the changes to be introduced in the religion.
"A successful religious government will not be stable unless it undergoes changes", he pointed out, as students were accusing him of having done nothing during his eight years of presidency by blaming the opponents for having prevented him to implement the reforms he had promised during presidential campaigns.
In questions raised by the students, Khatami said, "I have not deviated from my stances even an iota and proceed with my stances with pleasure”.
"It is up to me to defend democracy and freedom within the Islamic Republic and liberation from foreign domination", he pointed out, adding: "We have to institutionalize freedom to attain all-out development".
However, he visibly angered the audience when he strongly defended the action of the Information (Intelligence) Ministry and with a strange “if’ questioned the existence pf parallel security services.
The Council of the Guardians ignored directives from the leader who had ordered fair and just elections
“Probably, our intelligence system is one of the best, more tolerant, efficient and hard working in the world, dedicated not to the security of the officials but that of the nation and the people”, Mr. Khatami insisted, adding that “if there are parallel organs, it is a problem that must be addressed.
“How can he be so vicious, or pretending to be ignorant, when every one in this country knows that there are several security systems running private jails, arresting and torturing dissidents”, one students said in the side lines of the meeting.
He was referring to security organs operated by the Judiciary, the Office of the Leader, the Revolutionary Guards and the police, all outside the control of the government.
“Look at the journalists who, against their freedom, published letters of repentance and confessed to their guilt, presenting excuses to the leader and the people for having betrayed and insulted them, for being mislead by enemies of the system, by foreigners etc. Letters that are ready made bearing the seal of the authorities”, he added, referring to the five journalists freed last week.
Elsewhere, the President defended the action of the Iranian diplomats during the last meeting of the international nuclear watchdog in Vienna, where thanks to the cooperation of Britain, France and Germany, the Board of Directors of the IAEA passed a mild resolution that saved Tehran from economic sanctions demanded by the United States.
“They saved the nation from a major danger and without proper strategy and wisdom, we could face enormous difficulties”, he said of the work of the Iranian delegation while reading a slogan saying: “I might be deft, blind and mute, but I’m certainly not idiot”. ENDS KHATAMI STUDENTS 61204