The man who says he defeated Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last year in Iran's disputed presidential election blamed the Iranian leader on Wednesday for Iran's poor economy. Mr. Ahmadinejad, in turn blamed the West.
Mir Hossein Mousavi and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addressed Iranian workers to commemorate Labor Day, which much of the world celebrates May 1. They traded accusations over the causes of Iran's deteriorating economy.
President Ahmadinejad spoke at the opening of a cement plant in Zobol, offering a glowing description of Iran's economic performance and potential. He then lashed out at the West for unspecified economic difficulties the country is facing.
He said Western countries have trillion-dollar economies and they are not faring so well. He said "arrogant capitalist nations of the world," which he called Iran's "enemies," seek to dominate Iran economically and culturally. But he said Iran has the will to fight back.
Mousavi, the leading figure of the Iranian opposition, blamed Mr. Ahmadinejad for what he called the president's "erroneous" economic policies and mishandling of the economy. Mr. Ahmadinejad, he said, "is putting Iran's independence in danger."
He described what he called Mr. Ahmadinejad's "mistaken economic policies" regarding subsidies and imports and blamed the government's crackdown on people's freedom since last June's disputed presidential election for causing an economic morass. He said the president's policies have exposed Iran to foreign influences, which have led to economic hardship.
Iran is subject to U.N. economic sanctions for its unwillingness to cooperate with the international community over its controversial nuclear program. Tehran says its program is intended for peaceful, civilian purposes. The international community suspects that Iran is trying to build nuclear weapons.
Opposition Internet Web sites and pro-government newspapers regularly detail Iran's economic difficulties, which include hundreds of unpaid workers in industries across the country as well as numerous factory closures.
President Ahmadinejad and the Iranian parliament have been at odds in the months over cutting government subsidies for foodstuffs and basic consumer goods.
Iran analyst Ali Nourizadeh of the Center for Arab and Iranian Studies in London says the Iran's economy is facing various hardships and that Mr. Ahmadinejad and Mr. Mousavi have different ideas about the causes and the solutions to the problem.
"In the past three or four years, we [have witnessed] the closure of many, many factories and industrial [plants] because of Mr. Ahmadinejad's economic policy, encouraging imports from countries like China," said Ali Nourizadeh. "Therefore, there will be more and more unemployment. Also, Ahmadinejad keeps talking about [these being] the best years of Iran. But then when we look at the reports by the International Monetary Fund and independent economists that tells us the Iranian economy is in shambles. But Mr. Mousavi [thinks] differently. One of the promises in his [election] campaign was to create more jobs to help industries, rather than give chances to countries like China to import more and more; he will give a chance to Iranian industry to export."
Mr. Ahmadinejad was criticized for his handling of the economy by all three of his opponents during the June 2009 presidential election, and many journalists poked fun at the bright colored charts and graphs he used to indicate, what he insisted was the positive performance of the economy.