Thu, Nov 29, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Ahmadinejad hits back after judiciary clears ex-atomic negotiator of charges

AFP , TEHRAN

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hit back yesterday after a former nuclear negotiator he accused of spying was cleared of espionage, calling for the publication of documents exposing the official.

The Iranian judiciary the day before had cleared Hossein Moussavian on two counts of espionage and holding classified information, in direct contradiction of the government's accusations against the former atomic negotiator.

"The full content of the negotiation of this ex-member of the nuclear negotiating team should be published," Ahmadinejad said after a Cabinet meeting, the Mehr news agency reported.

"It is very appropriate that the intelligence content he has given to the Westerners should be published, so others are informed of it," Ahmadinejad said.

Ahmadinejad sparked a huge controversy on Nov. 12 when he accused critics of "pressuring the judge to acquit a spy." The remarks were seen as an unmistakable reference to Moussavian.

The president's rivals expressed outrage that he made a judgement of guilt against Moussavian before the judiciary had reached any conclusion.

Intelligence Minister Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie had even said the allegations were "proven" and that Moussavian had passed classified information to the British embassy in Tehran.

The judiciary found there was a case for Moussavian to answer over less serious allegations of making "propaganda against the system."

Moussavian was the spokesman of the moderate nuclear negotiating team that served under president Mohammad Khatami and was replaced when Ahmadinejad became president in 2005.

The former negotiator -- who was detained briefly in May but released on bail -- is a close ally of Ahmadinejad's great political rival, the pragmatic former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

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