Iran’s departing president has acknowledged his country didn’t always tell people the truth during his eight years in office.
Hassan Rouhani’s remarks were made on state television on Sunday during his last cabinet session as president as his signature nuclear deal lay in tatters and tension with the West was high.
“What we told people was not contrary to reality, but we did not tell part of the truth to people,” he said.
“Because I did not find it useful and I was afraid it would harm national unity.”
Days earlier, Mr Rouhani was apparently lectured by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei about the failure of the 2015 nuclear deal, under which Iran agreed to limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.
The accord collapsed after US president Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America in May 2018.
Mr Rouhani blamed many of Iran’s current problems on Mr Trump’s decision, which caused the value of the rial to crash.
He said that while Tehran had planned to upgrade its armed forces after a UN arms embargo expired in October 2020, its financial woes had made this impossible.
“We did not have the money to buy due to sanctions and not selling oil, but the contract is completely ready,” he said.
Officials in Mr Rouhani’s government have appeared rudderless in recent months amid a series of crises including coronavirus outbreaks and droughts that have fuelled public protests.
During his tenure, Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard mistakenly shot down a commercial passenger plane, killing all 176 people onboard, in January 2020. Tehran refused for days to acknowledge the error until western nations went public with their suspicions.
Mr Rouhani, a relative moderate within Iran’s theocracy, insisted that he and his officials had done their best.
“If we have a defect, we apologise to the people and ask them for forgiveness and mercy,” he said.
President-elect Ebrahim Raisi, a protege of Mr Khamenei, will be inaugurated on Thursday.