Ex-leader slams Ahmadinejad

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

An influential Iranian cleric has criticized President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in unusually blunt terms, saying his government was pursuing policies that were leading to "public impoverishment," newspapers said.

Former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, a political rival of Ahmadinejad, called on the government to rein in populist spending policies largely blamed for fueling inflation of more than 20%.

Rafsanjani, president from 1989 to 1997, lost the 2005 presidential election to Ahmadinejad. Rafsanjani is not expected to run again, but his comments show that rival political camps are starting to stake out positions for the 2009 race.

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