Khomeini wanted to drop 'Death to America'

Iran's ex-president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has aroused controversy after saying in a new book that revolutionary founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini favoured dropping the mantra of "Death to America."

Khomeini wanted to drop 'Death to America'

Iran's ex-president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has aroused controversy after saying in a new book that revolutionary founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini favoured dropping the mantra of "Death to America."

The revelation in the latest edition of Rafsanjani's diaries comes amid growing strains between Tehran and Washington, but also after landmark talks between Iranian and US officials on security in Iraq.

The slogan of "Death to America" symbolises Iran's enmity with the United States and is chanted by the faithful after Friday prayers and often during speeches by the Islamic republic's top leaders.


Rafsanjani's comment comes in an entry from July 5, 1984, five years before Khomeini's death and in the midst of the 1980-1988 war with Saddam Hussein's Iraq which cost a million lives on both sides.

"Mr Imam Moussavi, an MP from Shoushtar, also came to visit me and he suggested banning the slogans of 'Death to America' and 'Death to the Soviet Union'," writes Rafsanjani, who was speaker of parliament at that time.

"I told him that in principle a decision had been taken and the imam (Khomeini) has approved it.

"But we are waiting for the right moment."

The newly published book is the fifth volume in a series of memoirs by Rafsanjani detailing his life story, from political activism under the shah to his work as a top Iranian leader.

The book was published before the new Iranian year in March and the comments have been unnoticed until now.

But they have been picked up in the local media in recent days, with hardliners condemning Rafsanjani for publishing what they see as a distortion of Khomeini's views.

The daily Kayhan's editor-in-chief Hossein Shariatmadari on Saturday wrote a stinging editorial calling on Rafsanjani to retract the statement.

"It must be said that what Rafsanjani attributed to the imam (Khomeini) is contrary to the positions announced by the late imam and his path which is known to everyone," he said.



"More than hurting the nation, this hurts the personality of Mr Rafsanjani. It is definitely necessary that this be corrected," wrote Shariatmadari in the editorial entitled "Pardon me, Mr Rafsanjani..."

Always at the centre of the Islamic republic's politics, Rafsanjani served two terms as president between 1989-1997.

The cleric now serves as head of the Expediency Council, a powerful body which mediates in disputes and acts as the adviser to Iran's supreme leader on strategic planning issues.

A confidant of Khomeini who is nonetheless known as a pragmatist, Rafsanjani has consistently argued for moderation in Iran's dealings with the United States.

During a Friday prayer sermon this month, he said that Iran was ready for talks at "any level" with the United States, although other officials have said that the time is not ripe.

Rafsanjani also caused a stir last year by publishing a letter by Khomeini over the end of the war with Iraq, which prompted hardliners to accuse him of exploiting the late leader's comments for his own political ends.

Khomeini's letter explained why it was necessary to accept a ceasefire with Iraq, and its publication was seen as a way of emphasising the importance of pursuing a realistic policy with the international community.

Another contentious passage in Rafsanjani's new book comes from an entry from January 7, 1985, when he writes of a visit to Khomeini during which the leader talked openly of stepping down.

The supreme leader in Iran, currently Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is appointed for life.

"I went to visit the imam. I waited for him inside the home for a long time and it seemed he wanted increasingly to be alone. I emphasised he needed to talk to people more often. He talked about the possibility of stepping down.

"I said 'Say no more. It is not expedient.' And he accepted."

AFP

Last Mod: 20 Ağustos 2007, 19:17
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