Iranian president greets grilling with jokes

Iranian president greets grilling with jokes

Iranian president greets grilling with jokes

Becoming the first Iranian president in the country’s history to be hauled before the Iranian Parliament, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad greets criticism by his increasingly powerful opponents with jokes and mocking. AFP photo

The Iranian Parliament summoned President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad yesterday to testify on a long list of accusations, including that he mismanaged the nation’s economy and defied the authority of the country’s supreme leader.

Ahmadinejad is the first president in the country’s history to be hauled before the Iranian Parliament, a serious blow to his standing in a conflict pitting him against lawmakers and the country’s powerful clerical establishment. He sniped back defiantly at his questioners, provoking the wrath of the chamber with jabs and sarcastic jokes. Instead of directly replying to questions, Ahmadinejad simply said he supports Iran’s “history” and doesn’t regret doing so. Ahmadinejad repeatedly claimed he wants to share “jokes” with the lawmakers. “Here is not a place to share jokes. This is the Parliament. The president has no right to insult the legislature,” lawmaker Mohammad Reza Khabbaz told the chamber angrily.

Ahmadinejad’s closing words caused some of the largest uproar. “It was not a very difficult quiz,” he said of the questioners. “To me, those who designed the questions were from among those who got a master’s degree by just pushing a button. If you had consulted us, better questions could have been drawn up,” he said. Chairing the meeting, lawmaker Ali Motahari, a prominent opponent of the president, read out a series of 10 questions to Ahmadinejad in an open session of parliament broadcast live on state radio.

‘Be fair, give a good grade’
Motahari asked why Ahmadinejad had stayed at home for several days last April after supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei overturned the president’s decision to sack the intelligence minister -- an absence seen by some as a protest against the supreme leader’s decision. Belying his weakened standing, Ahmadinejad responded in a confident and, at times, flippant tone that did little to calm the excitement of the hearing. On his absence from work last April, he said: “This is one of those things -- Ahmadinejad staying home and resting. Some of my friends have repeatedly told me to rest. In this government, work has never been stopped for even a day.”

The president was also asked about a dramatic hike in prices that has caused public dissatisfaction and his failure to provide a budget to Tehran’s subway system.

Other biting questions were directed at Ahmadinejad’s support for his protegé and top aide, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, who hard-liners accuse of heading a “deviant current” that sought to undermine Islamic rule and compromise the Islamic system. Mashaei has been effectively blocked from his alleged goal of succeeding Ahmadinejad when the president’s term expires in 2013.

The president said he must be given a top score on the “quiz.” “Be fair. Give a good grade. Any grade of less than 100 will be rude,” he said.

Compiled from AP and Reuters stories by the Daily News staff.