Thursday, January 27, 2005

Daily Times - Site Edition

Daily Times - Site Edition: "Rafsanjani raises expectations of presidential comeback

TEHRAN: Iran’s powerful former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has again raised expectations that he will attempt a comeback for the Islamic republic’s number-two job, saying he may stand as a moderate candidate.

“If the social climate is favourable to my presence, and to maintain a moderate and pragmatic line... I will maybe be a candidate,” Rafsanjani was quoted as saying in press reports Thursday.

“In any case, I will never be in agreement with the extremists from both sides,” he said, referring to Iran’s hardline conservative and reformist camps.

He added that he would soon let it be known if he would stand in the June 17 presidential polls.

Rafsanjani made his comments in the central city of Yazd during a meeting with the local secretary of the Servants of Reconstruction party, formed during the 1990s by Rafsanjani’s allies.

“If the collective conscience believes that I should stand, I will not hesitate. I will announce my decision in the coming weeks,” he was also quoted as telling the congress of a trade union backing his possible candidacy.

The cleric and pragmatic conservative currently heads the Expediency Council - Iran’s top political arbitration body - but has been openly mulling a comeback as president.

Reformist President Mohammad Khatami is near the end of his second consecutive term and cannot stand again. The constitution only bars presidents from serving more than two consecutive terms, meaning Rafsanjani - president from 1989 to 1997 - can stand.

Although a number of other prominent conservatives have declared their candidacies, the 71-year-old Rafsanjani said this month he was “still not convinced” of the need for “old figures” to stay out of the race. afp"