Middle East News
Ahmadinejad rejects criticism by hardline rivals in parliament
Mar 14, 2012, 14:21 GMT
Tehran - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rejected criticism of his policies by rival lawmakers Wednesday, in an unprecedented appearance in parliament.
Ahmadinejad, the first Iranian president to face questions by parliament since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, faced a grilling by hardline lawmakers critical of his policies, especially his handling of the economy.
They blame high inflation on his decision to cancel food and fuel subsidies and accuse him of wasting state funds on handouts to the poor.
Clerical hardliners from traditionalist factions also doubt Ahmadinejad's loyalty to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Khamenei, who has the final say on all state and religious affairs, reinstated the intelligence minister who was sacked by Ahmadinejad. The president questioned Khamenei's move, angering hardline lawmakers who had been trying to summon him for months.
The summoning to parliament is another blow for Ahmadinejad, whose faction this month lost a parliamentary election to clerical hardliners allied with Khamenei.
Looking confident and smiling, Ahmadinejad played down the importance of his summoning and said it was the parliament's duty to question government policies.
'I have never made a secret that my policies are different from my predecessors,' Ahmadinejad said.
Khamenei loyalists accuse Ahmadinejad and his ministers of interfering in theological affairs, which they say undermines Iran's Islamic laws and its supreme leader.
Khamenei loyalists were angered by Ahmadinejad's criticism of the religious police, in particular their enforcement of the Islamic dress code requiring women to wear a headscarf and long gowns to hide body contours in public.
'All I said was treat the people with respect and that such cultural problems could not be solved by (police) force,' Ahmadinejad said.
'But honestly, the questions made here were not so hard to answer, I could have made better ones, and it seems that the architect of the summoning was not very well educated,' Ahmadinejad said.
'I expect that the parliament should now make me pass with grade A, anything else would be unfair,' he added jokingly.
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