Iran's former chief nuclear negotiator rebuked President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a sharp attack Wednesday, saying the hard-line president's "bombastic slogans" are hampering Iran's development and harming national interests.
Hasan Rowhani's remarks were some of the harshest criticism yet of Ahmadinejad by a prominent member of Iran's ruling Islamic establishment.
Rowhani was replaced as top nuclear negotiator when Ahmadinejad came to office in 2005, but remains a member of the Supreme National Security Council, which handles nuclear issues. He also sits on two powerful cleric-run bodies, the Experts Assembly and the Expediency Council.
"Does foreign policy mean bombastic slogans? Harsh speech? Remarks that end in loud slogans? These things won't build foreign policy," Rowhani told the opening session of a conference in Tehran. "Foreign policy doesn't mean fiery slogans. Foreign policy means a way of dealing with the world that reduces threats."
Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, praised Ahmadinejad Tuesday for standing up to the West and refusing to halt the country's uranium enrichment. Ahmadinejad said a report released by the U.N. nuclear watchdog on Friday had vindicated Iran's nuclear program and left no justification for any U.N. Security Council sanctions.
The 11-page report by International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei said all major past issues surrounding Iran's nuclear activities had been resolved or are "no longer outstanding at this stage." The IAEA investigation's findings were consistent with explanations provided by Iran, the report also said.
The U.S., however, said the report actually strengthened the case for additional sanctions because it said Iran refused to heed Security Council demands to halt enrichment. The IAEA also said Tehran had dismissed as "baseless" information provided by Western intelligence agencies that Iran's alleged missile and explosives experiments are part of a nuclear weapons program.
U.S. pushes for sanctions
The U.S. is now pushing for a third round of sanctions against Iran and is hoping for a Security Council vote later this week.
Rowhani's criticism is partly shared by conservative supporters of Ahmadinejad, who contend his rhetoric needlessly antagonizes the West and increases divisions at home. The hard-line president often harshly denounced the U.S. in his speeches, has angered the West with vows that Israel will one day be eliminated and has sharply criticized domestic rivals, branding some as "traitors." The president is also under fire for failing to reform Iran's failing economy.
Rowhani said policies were undermining Iran's plans to become a regional superpower and a base for high technology and scientific know-how by 2025.
The plan, Rowhani said, won't materialize as long as the government excludes moderates and experts who disagree with Ahmadinejad's politics and as long as inflation and unemployment are not controlled.
"My fear is that the plan is being turned into a slogan. This is the main danger ... If we want to achieve the goals defined in the document, we need a national resolve ... one group and faction alone, can't bring development," he said.
Rowhani called for a "competent government ... a government that is competent and responsible" in order to turn Iran into the industrial powerhouse of western Asia.
"We are not yet disappointed, but the experience in the past two or three years has not been a good experience," the official said. "If a nation gets into the field of slogans, it will suffer. We need to be realistic," he said, in clear reference to Ahmadinejad.
He pressed the government to be "ready for flexibility and bargaining."