Iran’s Rouhani Defends Economic Record Ahead of Election, Scolds U.S. Over Sanctions

TEHRAN (AFP) –  Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani defended his economic record in a press conference on Monday but stopped short of formally announcing his candidacy for next month’s presidential election.

Rouhani pushed back against criticism from conservatives over his economic performance, saying there had been measurable improvements in agriculture, healthcare, energy and internet coverage, especially in villages and poor suburbs.

He also focused on his key achievement, a nuclear deal with world powers that ended some sanctions in return for limits to Iran’s atomic programme.

“In every aspect that you consider, figures tell us that after the (nuclear deal), there is more space for movement and progress,” he said.

Rouhani is expected to run for a second term on May 19, but said this press conference was “not about elections”.

“We need to wait two or three more days,” he said.

Registration for the election begins on Tuesday and will continue until Saturday.

Sitting presidents in Iran are expected to be modest about their ambitions, and to refrain from using state television as a campaigning platform.

Rouhani called his critics “smoke machines, disseminating black smoke everywhere”.

The president also criticised the United States for imposing sanctions on Iran and attacking an airbase in Syria.

“Americans have never acted within international frameworks, and one instance is the sanctions they impose against Iran, unreasonably considering themselves as the world’s leader,” he said.

“The Syrian people and army must give a response (to the US) that makes Americans regret their attack.”

US President Donald Trump in his first month in office issued fresh sanctions targeting Iran’s ballistic missile programme.


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