Silver Lining

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Candidates tackle economics in first Iran’s presidential debate

Al Manar

The eight candidates in Iran’s presidential election tackled the country’s economic problems in their first televised debate Friday, with one hopeful for “reconciliation with the world” to solve high unemployment and inflation.

Economic woes are a key issue in the June 14 election, and the economy is a sector where the president can have major influence.

In Friday’s four-hour debate, several of the candidates were sharply critical of outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s policies — though they offered few details on alternatives.

The conservative Ali Akbar Velayati, a top adviser to the Supreme Leader, called for “reconciliation with the world,” saying Iran cannot meet its capacity without improving ties with the world and other countries.

He also called for reconciliation inside Iran among all groups that believe in the Islamic Republic system and the Supreme Leader.

Mohsen Rezaei, a former Revolutionary Guard commander, said Iran must find a “logical solution for the sanctions” to tackle inflation. He also called the current situation “tragic,” noting limits on cargo shipping because of banking, insurance and oil embargos.

Instead, candidates tackled Ahmadinejad’s policies, particularly his steps to cut subsidies that suck up a large part of Iran’s budget and replace them with cash for the poor. They promised to continue the cash payments.

Saeed Jalili, the country’s top nuclear negotiator and a leading candidate, largely backed the policies, though he called for better implementation.

The candidates are to have two further debates over the next week, one on social and cultural policy and another on political issues and foreign policy.

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