TEHRAN (Reuters) - Senior Iranian opposition figure Mehdi Karoubi recognizes President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as head of government even though he still believes last year’s election was rigged, Karoubi’s son was quoted as saying on Monday.
It was the first time such an expression of recognition had been attributed to Karoubi, who came fourth in June’s disputed presidential election and who has persisted in voicing defiance over the conduct of the vote ever since.
Separately, in an interview on Monday, Karoubi forecast that Ahmadinejad’s government would not stay in power for a full four-year term, an opposition website quoted an aid to Karoubi as saying.
A senior Western diplomat said he believed Karoubi, a pro-reform cleric and fierce critic of the hardline president, was sending a signal through the remark passed on by his son Hossein, but that it was unclear what it might lead to.
“It is a shift in tone ... it is very interesting,” the Tehran-based diplomat said.
In a separate statement on Monday, Karoubi made clear he had not fundamentally changed his views on the election and its aftermath.
Karoubi said he was “ready to pay a higher price over insisting on my position and I’m not afraid of pressures,” according to a report by the pro-reform Parlemannews website.
“In the end, those within the establishment who were planning to eliminate the people’s role will have no other choice but listening to people’s demands and accepting the people’s sovereignty,” it quoted Karoubi as saying.
“In an interview ... today I said be certain that Ahmadinejad’s government will not last four years,” an aid to Karoubi quoted the cleric as saying, according to the opposition Jaras website.
The reformist opposition says the June poll was rigged to secure Ahmadinejad’s re-election. The authorities deny the charge of vote fraud.
The disputed vote was followed by huge opposition protests and plunged Iran into its deepest internal turmoil since the 1979 Islamic revolution, exposing divisions in the establishment.
When Mehdi Karoubi’s son Hossein said his father recognized Ahmadinejad as “head of government,” he did not use the term “head of the republic,” the Iranian president’s formal title, in his statement on the opposition website Sahamnews.
“Mr Karoubi said he still strongly insists on his belief that the election was rigged,” Sahamnews quoted Hossein Karoubi as saying, referring to his father. Sahamnews is the website of Karoubi’s political party, Etemad-e Melli.
As Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had confirmed Ahmadinejad’s presidency, “I recognize him as the head of the government,” Hossein Karoubi quoted his father as saying.