Iranian former president Mohammad Khatami came under fire on Saturday after expressing regret for the “suffering and sorrow” of the country’s people, in rare public comments ahead of June elections.
“Instead of offering congratulations to the people, I prefer to offer my sympathy and support for the suffering and sorrow they have endured,” Khatami said in a video message on Thursday on the occasion of the Persian New Year.
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“I... sincerely apologize to the people of Iran for the shortcomings in my work” while in office, he said.
As Iranians celebrated the new year on Saturday, the ultra-conservative Tasnim news agency slammed the ex-president over his remarks, saying: “Mr. Khatami, you are part of the problem, not the solution.”
“The current dire social and political situation is largely the result of a government that came to power... with your support, and now you are an inseparable part of its track record,” it added.
Iran is due to hold presidential and municipal elections on June 18, when the electorate will vote for a successor to President Hassan Rouhani, who is in his final four-year term.
In his remarks, Khatami, who served as president from 1997 to 2005, expressed hopes that the elections would be “free and inclusive.”
The moderate Rouhani government came to power in an alliance with Iran’s reformists, and Khatami is a prominent figure of the same faction.
Rouhani’s signature diplomatic achievement, the 2015 nuclear deal, was supposed to end Iran’s economic isolation by lifting sanctions in return for curbs on the country’s nuclear program.
But the accord has been on life support since 2018, when the former US president Donald Trump withdrew from the deal and reimposed sanctions on the Islamic republic.
“Mr. Khatami, what good does sympathizing with people’s woes (now) accomplish?” Tasnim said, asking if it would “fix” problems such as the high cost of living.
In November 2019, a surprise hike in fuel prices sparked a wave of protests across Iran, before they were put down amid a near-total internet blackout.
Some authorities in Iran have announced 230 deaths during what they claim where “riots.”
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