TEHRAN (AFP) – Iran's outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday defended his government's rights record, saying he was not responsible for other branches of the Islamic regime.
"The highest level of respecting freedoms was (recorded) during my government," Ahmadinejad said on state television in a late night address.
"No one was reprimanded or prosecuted for criticising the government," he said, stressing that his office was not responsible for the conduct of the other branches of the regime.
Ahmadinejad will leave office in August after serving two four-year terms, during which Iran faced difficult times domestically and internationally.
In 2009, his disputed re-election sparked massive, deadly street protests, stifled in a brutal crackdown mounted by security forces.
The events also led to the arrests of thousands of protesters, activists, journalists and opposition figures from the reform-minded camp.
He will be replaced by moderate cleric Hassan Rowhani, whose surprise victory in the June 14 presidential election was considered to be a rejection of Ahmadinejad's controversial policies.
Iran has been isolated internationally for its nuclear programme, which Western powers and Israel suspect is hiding military objectives, despite repeated Iranian denials.
Ahmadinejad said he had done his best to steer the Islamic republic through "very difficult" times marred by harsh economic sanctions designed to force Iran to cut back on sensitive parts of its nuclear drive.
"I governed the country under very difficult conditions ... Americans threatened Iran every day and we were also hit by unfair, unilateral sanctions," he said.
"It all happened at a time when the global downturn dictated the economic situation in the world, and while domestic pressure against my government was running high," he said in an allusion to his falling out with the ruling conservatives in the regime.
"The sanctions created difficult times for the country," said Ahmadinejad, who only admitted in September that the punitive measures were causing problems for Iran.
Ahmadinejad's time in office was marked by provocative speeches regarding various international issues, including the nuclear programme. On Wednesday he said he had been left out of the nuclear loop.
"I have not had a role in the nuclear issue in a while," he said, without elaborating.
Final decisions on Iran's nuclear drive rest with supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Iran in engaged in long-running but so-far fruitless negotiations with world powers aimed at resolving the nuclear standoff diplomatically.
Rowhani has promised to offer more transparency to resolve the issue, hoping to lift the sanctions which have left Iran's ailing economy in tatters.