Iran criticized for money printing amid 18-pct inflation

TEHRAN, April 19, 2008 (AFP) – Three of Iran’s top clerics have criticised President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over his handling of the economy, which is currently battling 18 percent inflation, the press reported Saturday.

“We shift problems and faults onto others and in order to say we are innocent we blame others,” Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Mahdavikani, a former prime minister and leading traditionalist conservative cleric, said in a speech in Tehran.

Ahmadinejad has repeatedly blamed his political rivals and the previous administration of reformist president Mohammad Khatami for stoking inflation and insisted his government is doing all it can to solve the problem.

The comments by Mahdavikani, quoted in the reformist Aftab-e Yazd newspaper, represent an unusually sharp attack on the president’s policies by such an eminent religious figure.

He also called on Ahmadinejad not to use top clerics as political instruments to bring out his supporters to vote in elections.

“In my meeting with Mr Ahmadinejad I told him not to use us (clerics) as instruments. We were combatants before the (1979 Islamic) Revolution. We fought against corruption and what was against religion.”

Ahmadinejad, in a speech in