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Rouhani Warns from Arrests Ahead of Presidential Elections | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a joint press conference with his Russian counterpart on March 28, 2017. (AFP)

London – Iranian President Hassan Rouhani criticized on Monday the wave of arrests against activists linked to his presidential campaign, warning of the increase of such practices as the May 19 presidential elections nears.

Rouhani said he worked on easing security measures during his presidential term.

In his last press conference ahead of the presidential elections, he stated that reports published by Iran’s intelligence and interior ministries showed that the people arrested by the Revolutionary Guards did not commit any violations, promising to publish the results of the investigations reached in this regard.

The Iranian president also warned against dealing with the presidential and municipal elections in Iran through a security approach. The municipal elections will be held simultaneously with the presidential ones.

Rouhani’s comments came on the eve of the start of the registration for Iran’s presidential candidates. The registration at the Interior Ministry will last five days.

Although the Iranian president did not confirm whether he will run for the elections, hours after he ended his press conference, a news website representing the government said that his first advisor Mohammad Ali Najafi and Vice President for Executive Affairs Mohammad Shariatmadari both resigned from their posts.

Fars news agency later said the two men were appointed in Rouhani’s presidential campaign, a sign that the current president aims to run for a second term.

In his press conference, Rouhani took the opportunity to defend his regional policies, including on the Syrian file. He reiterated his harsh condemnation of the decision made by US President Donald Trump to launch cruise missiles at the Shayrat air base in Syria last week. He said there would be a response if Washington strikes Syria again.

Rouhani also hoped that this year’s Hajj pilgrimage would be a stepping-stone in improving relations with Saudi Arabia.

“We are ready to improve ties with Saudi Arabia if they want to,” he said.