Iran candidates exchange barbs in fiery final debate

Supporters of Iranian conservative presidential candidate, Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, pose for a selfie during a campaign rally in Tehran. (AFP)
Updated 14 May 2017
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Iran candidates exchange barbs in fiery final debate

TEHRAN: Iran’s six presidential candidates exchanged barbs in their final debate on Friday, accusing each other of corruption and economic mismanagement a week ahead of the election.
Seeking a second four-year term, moderate President Hassan Rouhani has been on the offensive all week, framing the vote as a choice between greater social freedoms and repression.
But the theme of Friday’s debate was the economy, where continued stagnation and high unemployment have given plenty of ammunition to his conservative opponents.
Hard-line Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf repeatedly returned to his theme that Rouhani’s administration had only benefited the “four percenters” at the top of society.
“The country is facing an economic crisis, with unemployment, recession and inflation. A tree that has not born any fruit in four years will not yield anything positive in the future,” said Ghalibaf.
“Tens of thousands of our factories have been closed and they are continuing to close.”
Rouhani hit back that Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers had ended sanctions and brought a windfall from the return of oil sales over the past year that could now be invested. “We want to allocate $15 billion for investments... and $3-5 billion for supporting the poor and needy,” he said.
He said handouts would be focused on rural and deprived areas — places where conservatives have tended to perform more strongly.
Cleric and jurist Ebrahim Raisi is seen as the leading conservative, though still a distant second to Rouhani in unofficial polls ahead of the Friday vote. He kept up his efforts to reach out to poor and religiously conservative voters.
“The people expect government members to fear God,” he said.
“Poverty has increased with this government from 23 percent to 33 percent. We must increase direct aid to the poor,” he added, accusing Rouhani’s government of only boosting subsidies at the last minute to grab votes.
“Why did you wait for the election campaign to increase aid? Why didn’t you do it four years ago? The people are intelligent and they will decide.”
The six candidates selected to run by the conservative-dominated Guardian Council are evenly split between moderate-reformists on one side and hard-liners on the other, and the debates have the feel of two teams clashing.
Some of the fiercest exchanges were between Ghalibaf and Iran’s reformist vice president, Eshaq Jahangiri, who accused each other of corruption and making empty promises.


Terror funding has ‘new face,’ warns Saudi Arabia's attorney general

Updated 20 February 2019
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Terror funding has ‘new face,’ warns Saudi Arabia's attorney general

  • Financial crimes a rising threat to global economy, MENA forum told

JEDDAH: The changing dynamics of terror financing and money laundering posed a growing problem for countries and organizations seeking to halt their spread, a regional conference in Cairo was warned.

Saudi Arabia's Attorney General Sheikh Saud bin Abdullah Al-Mua’jab told the first Middle East and North Africa conference on countering terrorism that new forms of transnational terror funding and money laundering demanded greater cooperation between states and organizations.

The conference, organized by the Egyptian Public Prosecution Office, aims to bolster international unity in the face of the escalating threat of terrorist financing and money laundering operations.

“Saudi Arabia has spared no effort in combating these two crimes,” Al-Mua’jab said.

He said money laundering and terror financing are at the “forefront of global criminal phenomena,” and often complemented each other.

“One of the most important steps the world has taken through its international and regional systems is to engage in initiatives and agreements to combat terrorism financing and money laundering as the artery of the criminal body that strikes the global economy,” he said.

“Saudi Arabia is a key partner in the international coalition against the so-called Daesh terrorist organization and leads, together with the US and Italy, the Counter Daesh Finance Group. It has also implemented laws and procedures aimed at combating money laundering and terrorist financing,” he said.

Al-Mua’jab said the September 2018 report of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) on Saudi Arabia had praised the Kingdom’s commitment to the recommendations of the group.

“Saudi Arabia has spared no effort in combating these two crimes,” he said. “It was one of the first countries in the world to be affected by terrorist acts. Its experience of combating the crimes has been exemplary.”

He said measures taken by the Kingdom included the 2017 “Law of Combating Crime and its Financing,” regulation of charities and the establishment of a standing committee to investigate money laundering.

The Kingdom’s Public Prosecution Office recently released a manual outlining steps to counter money laundering, including measures for seizure and confiscation, tracking of funds and details of international cooperation. 

The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority has also issued a guidebook for Saudi banks to combat money laundering. 

A recent Saudi Cabinet meeting outlined strategic objectives for reducing the risks of the two crimes, he said.