TEHRAN (Reuters) - A leading Iranian reformist said on Sunday that “provocative” speeches had damaged Iran’s nuclear cause and its diplomatic standing in a veiled attack on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
“Our policy is one of detente. We want to have interaction with the whole world except Israel,” former parliamentary speaker Mehdi Karoubi told a news conference ahead of Friday’s parliamentary election.
He urged voters to turn out for the poll, even though reformists are contesting little more than half the 290 seats. A vetting council has disqualified many of their candidates.
“There is this trend that wants to marginalize people and to have a staged vote. But if people don’t vote, they will suffer. The situation will get worse.”
Karoubi criticized the government’s rhetoric on nuclear matters, without naming Ahmadinejad.
The March 14 parliamentary vote may offer clues to Ahmadinejad’s chances of re-election to the presidency next year, but analysts say his fate depends more on whether he keeps the support of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and other forces.
Khamenei, who has the last word on nuclear and foreign policy, praised Ahmadinejad last month for his nuclear stance and criticized those who had previously advocated compromise.
“The source of our problems is not whether we accept the suspension (of uranium enrichment) or not,” Karoubi said, referring to Iran’s disputed nuclear program, which the West suspects is military, despite Tehran’s denials.
“Fiery speeches and stances have created many problems for Iran,” Karoubi added. “We can insist on our rights without provocative speeches.”
Ahmadinejad’s critics say he has helped to isolate Iran and expose it to three rounds of U.N. sanctions.
Karoubi said Iran should be ready for talks with its foes, particularly the United States. Washington and Tehran have not had diplomatic ties for almost three decades.
“Our ties (with Washington) have been cut but it cannot last forever,” he declared. “If they respect our rights, we can start relations based on mutual respect.”
Mohammad-Reza Khatami, the brother of former President Mohammad Khatami, said Ahmadinejad’s government had reversed the diplomatic gains Iran had made earlier.
“Under the previous (Khatami) government, most Western countries had split away from the United States, but this government ... has pushed all Western countries towards the United States,” Fars news agency quoted him as saying.
Khatami told a meeting of the Coalition of Reformist Groups in Malayer, Hamedan province, on Saturday that members of the next parliament should “pursue the path of interaction with Western countries”.
He said Iran had suffered increases in unemployment and inflation and lower economic growth since Ahmadinejad replaced Khatami as president in 2005.
Writing by Alistair Lyon; Editing by Elizabeth Piper