Ahmadinejad challenges Rouhani to public debate

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Former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has invited President Hassan Rouhani to a public debate to resolve “uncertainties” about the president’s 100-day report on the state of the country.

Upon taking office, Rouhani’s ministers have publicly complained of “empty coffers” despite Iran receiving approximately $600 billion in oil revenues during Ahmadinejad’s presidency. Rouhani’s ministers have accused the previous administration of publishing inaccurate statistics about the state of the economy, when it published them at all.

In response to the letter from Ahmadinejad, chief Rouhani adviser Akbar Torkan has accepted the challenge for a public debate, although with some caveats, and reiterated that Ahmadinejad’s government did not publish accurate information.

“We accept the debate with the condition that the former president accepts the condition of observing the truth,” Torkan said. “Hassan Rouhani and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are not at the same level to debate one another, but either way, we welcome the former president’s questions.” He continued, “We will try to find someone from the administration who is at the same level as Ahmadinejad in scientific and social validity.”

Torkan dismissed suggestions that his conditions were insulting to the former president, and added that while he was not hopeful a debate would take place, he would prepare the data for one. He also said that many of the individuals who put together the 100-day report were staff left over from Ahmadinejad’s administration and that the report was not political.

“Mr. Ahmadinejad, in presenting his statistics in the final days of his administration, worked in a political way,” Torkan said. “The individuals who put together the 100-day report are individuals who were hired by Ahmadinejad. The president of the Center for Statistics in Iran, the head of treasury for the country [and] the officials at the Central Bank have not changed in the new administration.”

Torkan went on to say that in regard to accusations over the 100-day report, “The political behavior of individuals or their dishonesty is a product of imagination. The previous president, is his reports in the final months of the administration, did not give accurate information to the people.”

In Ahmadinejad’s open letter to Rouhani, he wrote, “With hopes for success for yours truly and the compassionate servants across the country, with hearing the reports a few days ago which assigned unfair and baseless titles against my administration, for the requirements of the interests of the country, I have and will be silent. But with respect to the countless groups of various people, such as political and economic experts, I see it necessary to invite you, in a completely friendly and sincere atmosphere, to a clear, principled and enlightening debate, in terms of public opinion, uncertainties being eliminated and to confirm and emphasize the pure truth as it is.”

The letter continued, “God is my witness that this invite is not based on a personal feeling but rather a religious and national duty. Otherwise, I and my colleagues in the duration of eight years of our responsibilities, while tolerating a heavy load, have accepted, with love to the Iranian nation unprecedented services to the Islamic homeland, parallel to the enmity of foreigners, an incomparable volume of adversity and unkindness from some domestically, and have passed the test with goodness.”

Ahmadinejad was most recently in the news when on Nov. 26 he failed to show up in court to answer charges filed by private plaintiffs.