Presidential candidates in Iran have held their third and final live debate on television, giving fresh impetus to the election campaign already in full swing across the country.
The debate was held on Friday, a week before Iranians go the polls on June 14th to pick the next president.
As expected, the third debate was more challenging than the two previous ones in which the candidates discussed economic and cultural issues.
The heated debate mainly focused on issues such as foreign policy, national security and resistance, developments in the Middle East and Iran’s nuclear energy program.
“During the last meeting that [Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Saeed] Jalili had with the P5+1 group [of world powers] in Almaty, [Kazakhstan], they offered proposals based on which we could make progress but he did not accept those proposals,” Principlist candidate Ali Akbar Velayati said.
“The P5+1 group said that if you stop … enrichment and slow down the process in Fordow [nuclear facility], we will lift three sanctions. We could take a step-by-step move. In response it was said that we do this and you should lift all the sanctions. This means you don’t want to make progress. This is not diplomacy,” Velayati added.
Principlist presidential candidate Saeed Jalili said, “You should not manipulate information and news. What you said about the Almaty talks is absolutely wrong. Everything was recorded. In Almaty we said that we take reciprocal steps. If you take one step, we will take another. If you go 25 kilometers we will do the same.”
Reformist presidential candidate Hassan Rohani also stated, “Mr. Rezaei! You are the same person who said that the UN Security Council is much better than the Board of Governors and that why Mr. Rohani had prevented Iran’s nuclear dossier from being sent to the UN Security Council. You are the same person and now you are advising me.”
“This is a good historical experience but it should not be said that any of us should not seek to disclose secrets about others. In fact, this indicates the honesty of the officials towards people,” Independent presidential candidate Mohsen Rezaei said.
“Mr. Rezaei speaks in such a way as we don’t care about the news and problems of people and that he is the only one who is doing so,” Principlist presidential candidate Gholam Ali Haddad-Adel said.
The final debate was also a chance for candidates to try to address the concerns of potential voters among them media freedom, civil rights, and freedom of expression.
“My question is who is responsible for the current situation. People have the right to know who is responsible and it’s a good idea,” reformist presidential candidate Mohammad Reza Aref said.
“This debate provides an opportunity for everyone to talk about his capacities and prove his capabilities,” independent presidential candidate Mohammad Gharazi said.
Meanwhile, regarding the US-backed move by certain powers in taking a number of Iranian satellite channels off the air, Principlist candidate Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf said, “In fact, the move by certain powers in taking a number of Iranian satellite channels off the air shows these powers only claim to defend freedom of expression and democracy so long as their interests are not threatened.”
Following the final debate, the candidates came among reporters and voiced their views.
“The debate was great. It was real and open. Each of the candidates could frankly express his views and now people should judge,” Velayati said.
“I believe the administration should be transparent and there should be a free flow of information. Otherwise, the administration will face problems,” Rohani said.
“The winning card of each candidate can be his views and ideas and that how honest he has on his part and how much people like his views,” Jalili said.
It is still unclear who won over the TV audience, however, analysts believe that the high number of candidates will likely split the votes which will lead the race to the second round.
In the coming days, it will become clear if any one of the candidates will quit the race in favor of others.
Iranians will cast their ballots at over 66,000 polling stations across the country in the upcoming presidential election, and some 285 polling stations will be set up abroad for Iranian expats.
Nearly 50.5 million Iranians are eligible to vote in the election, with more than 1.6 million first-time voters.
By Press TV
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