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Iranian Presidential Candidates Meet In Televised Debate


Tehranis at a campaign rally for candidate Hassan Rowhani on May 30.
Eight Iranian presidential candidates have debated each other on live state television. The question-and-answer format gave each candidate 90 seconds to reply to issues raised by a moderator.

The candidates refrained from making direct attacks on their rivals or criticizing each other.

Much of the debate focused on social and economic issues -- such as job creation, affordable housing, and how to tackle Iran’s widespread unemployment and inflation.

Presidential candidate Hassan Rohani -- a senior cleric and former nuclear negotiator for Tehran -- said unemployment is one of the most important issues facing the country.

"Jobs and ways to decrease the level of unemployment are the most important part of people’s demands," Rohani said. "We have more than 3 million unemployed people in Iranian society and there are more than 800,000 university graduates who are ready for jobs but are still unemployed. This shows that [job creation] is the most important issue today in our society.”

LIVE BLOG: RFE/RL's Golnaz Esfandiari recaps the talking points

Rohani also said Iran's government should be supporting domestic production so the country can reduce it reliance on imports.

Presidential hopeful Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, who is the current mayor of Tehran, said providing Iranian families with affordable housing would be one of his priorities.

“The housing issue will have a top priority in my government. The reason is because a large part of the income of young families is spent to pay rent because they don’t own homes," Qalibaf said. "If we resolve their housing problem, we would raise their purchasing power in other spheres.”

Candidates also were asked how to end Iran’s dependency on oil revenues, which have been declining as a result of international sanctions.

Mohammad Reza Aref, an electrical engineer and professor at Tehran University, said Iran must move toward building an economy “without oil.”

Aref also said Iran’s Central Banks needs independence and argued that reformist governments have been better able to control inflation.

Candidate Ali Akbar Velayati suggested Iran could transit natural gas from Turkmenistan to Turkey and Europe.

Velayati, who is a former foreign minister, said Iran also needs “reconciliation with the world” and improved ties with other countries in the region to avoid further economic pressures.

“We must repair our relations with other countries," Velayati said. "Today they have imposed sanctions on oil and are buying less oil. They have imposed restrictions on dollar transactions. What would we do if tomorrow they impose sanctions on other goods?”

On May 21, the Guardians Council that oversees the election process approved only eight of nearly 700 individuals who registered to become candidates in the June 14 vote.

Others on the approved list of candidates include former parliament speaker Gholam Ali Haddad Adel, chief nuclear negotiator Said Jalili, former Vice President Mohsen Rezai, and former Telecommunications Minister Mohammad Gharazi.

Those rejected included all of the roughly 30 women who applied, as well as former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

With reporting by and
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