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Ahmadinejad ready for sit-down with US

Source: Press TV

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who regularly criticizes election rivals for advocating diplomacy with the West, says he is ready for a sit-down with the US.

"Washington's political echelons have relentlessly signaled their willingness for a dialogue with Iran's government officials," said President Ahmadinejad in an address to a Friday gathering.

"If the talks are held on an equal footing, we have no objection. We would like to discus a whole range of international issues," added Ahmadinejad, who has signed up to seek another four-year term as president.

Over the past few weeks, a détente in Iran-US relations has been a key focus of presidential candidates in their election campaigns.

Presidential hopeful Mir-Hossein Mousavi has promised to pursue a conciliatory approach toward the Obama White House, while Reformist candidate Mehdi Karroubi has vowed to set an agenda for rapprochement with the US.

Principlist candidate Mohsen Rezaei has also pledged to interact with the United States "constructively", should he win the June 12 election.

President Ahmadinejad hit back at Western powers and his election rivals for casting aspersions on his foreign policy agenda. "It is most unfortunate for the opposite side to cast doubts on the government's foreign policy."

The incumbent president took pride in the fact that he never resorted to "currying favor with Western countries" in order to get his way.

President Ahmadinejad went on to defend his economic policies, which have been yet another target of criticism in recent weeks.

"Many have insulted us and criticized the governmental bid to import citrus fruits, whereas it has proven to be a smart and wise economic move," he said.

Critics say Ahmadinejad's import bid has taken a toll on domestic fruit producers, who failed to compete with the imported crops in terms of prices. According to reports, Iran is the world's 6th citrus fruit producer with the capacity of 4 million and 500 thousand tons.

Ahmadinejad describes one of his saddest days

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says the day his predecessor, Mohammad Khatami, met with his French counterpart Jacque Chirac was the saddest day of his life.

"The day that the previous president under those circumstances visited France was one of the saddest days of my life," the incumbent president, who has on various occasions criticized Khatami for adopting a "naïve" approach towards the West, he told state radio on Wednesday.

"Jacque Chirac was standing on top of the stairs and Iran's former president ... had to climb several flights of stairs to reach him, that kind of behavior is insulting to us," he said without directly naming Khatami in his speech.

In a prompt response to the remarks, the campaign of presidential hopeful Mir-Hossein Mousavi -- who is supported by Khatami -- published pictures of the 2005 encounter between the two presidents while they both stood at the foot of the stairs of the Elysee palace in Paris.

With less than 15 days left to Iran's 10th presidential elections, Ahmadinejad and Moussavi are engaged in a face-off to gain ground in polls throughout the country.

Former parliament speaker Mehdi Karroubi and Expediency Council Secretary Mohsen Rezaei, who currently lag behind in opinion polls, are under pressure to pull out of the contest in favor of the top two contenders.

Ahmadinejad under fire over oil money

Iran's Supreme Audit Court criticizes the Ahmadinejad administration for providing "insufficient answers" in the case of the missing $1.058 billion oil money.

The criticism came after Iranian Vice President for Legal and Majlis Affairs Mohammad-Reza Rahimi issued a letter, saying the discrepancy was due to an "accounting error" by the Court.

In its latest statement on the subject, the Court rejected Rahimi's assertion and questioned his justification, saying that its auditors calculated the oil revenues based on a method that was fully ratified in 2006.

"In accordance with the law and necessary compliance with professional conduct, the Supreme Audit Court, does not intend -- under any circumstances -- to step out of its legal and specialist jurisdiction," the Court said its statement.

This statement further fans the controversy that started when the Court issued a report for the Majlis (parliament), revealing that $1.058 billion in surplus oil revenues pertaining to the 2006-2007 budget had not been returned to the treasury.

Furthermore, in its latest report, the Court revealed that there had been 1463 cases of infractions regarding the country's 2007-2008 budget.

Allegedly illegal payments to some government officials accounted for a large part of the infractions. There were also cases in which the government had acted against the articles of the budget law, the report adds.

Following the revelation, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad criticized the Supreme Audit Court, saying that their assessment would "mar" the government's image and "incite the people" against his administration.

Ahmadinejad also responded by establishing a working group tasked with ensuring the transparency of his administration's financial performance.

"The group is bound to ensure the transparency of all executive financial reports in close collaboration with relevant organizations, especially the Supreme Audit Court," Ahmadinejad said.

According to its charter, among other things, the Supreme Audit Court is tasked with controlling "financial operations and activities of all ministries, institutions, government companies and other organizations which in any manner whatsoever benefit from the state budget."

... Payvand News - 05/30/09 ... --

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