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In first debate, Iran’s 6 presidential contenders conflict over sanctions, ill economic system

TEHRAN — Iran’s sanctions-hit, ailing economy was at the center of the first televised debate late on Monday, which brought together six contenders running in the county’s snap presidential election slated for June 28.

The candidates — three hard-liners, a traditional conservative and one Reformist — exchanged views, often with scathing comments aimed at one another, as they were asked about their future plans to address US and European sanctions that have targeted the Iranian economy for decades. 

Masoud Pezeshkian, a senior lawmaker who represents Iran’s pro-engagement Reform movement, along with Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, a cleric and a former judge hailing from the traditional conservative factions, both argued that Iran’s economy had been severely battered by sanctions and reiterated the urgent need for diplomacy to change course. 

By contrast, three hard-liners — Saeed Jalili, Alireza Zakani and Amir-Hossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi — doubled down on the stance that the Islamic Republic should avoid hinging its economic improvement on diplomatic efforts aimed at removing those sanctions. The approach has over the past three years been promoted by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and was closely pursued by late President Ebrahim Raisi, whose death in a helicopter crash in May triggered the snap polls. 


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