Iran’s final TV debate between next weekend’s presidential election candidates has seen the hardline nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili attacked by rivals over his record.
The fears of world powers that Tehran may be trying to build atomic bombs have seen sanctions intensified.
The former Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati told Jalili:
“You haven’t advanced even one step. Sanctions have been increasing every day, and the pressure is mounting on the people. The art of diplomacy is that you ease the sanctions and stop them from increasing while preserving the nuclear rights.”
“The West are buying time so that the sanctions hit the economy more seriously. Do you call this resistance?” said former Revolutionary Guards Commander Mohsen Rezaei.
Former negotiator Hasan Rowhani questioned Iran’s nuclear priorities, calling for more focus on the economy. Nuclear technology was fine, he said, “but only when people can make ends meet, when factories and industry run smoothly”.
And there was still more criticism of Jalili from Tehran’s mayor, Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf. “We need a shift in the managerial approach, and one part of this change relates to foreign policy. Diplomacy has not brought about the acceptable results we expected,” he said.
Jalili, thought to be close to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, defended his stance saying the previous “soft” strategy on the nuclear issue had failed.
Although he is seen as a frontrunner he is evidently facing stiff competition.
The vote a week on Sunday is the first since President Ahmadinejad’s controversial re-election four years ago. Reformists claimed his victory was rigged and protests were repressed.