Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Prominent hardliner, reformist run for president

Iran Mania News: "Prominent hardliner, reformist run for president

Tuesday, January 04, 2005 - ©2004 IranMania.com

LONDON, Jan 4 (IranMania) - Top Iranian hardliner Ali Larijani announced Monday that he was joining the presidential race to become Iran's next president, while a report said top pro-reform cleric Mehdi Karoubi would also be standing.

Larijani, 47, is also a former head of Iran's state-controlled broadcast media and one-time top member of the powerful Revolutionary Guards, the regime's ideological army.

He currently represents supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in the Supreme National Security Council and also sits on the Expediency Council, the country's top political arbitration body.

Pro-reform Karoubi, 68, is the former speaker of the Iranian parliament, or Majlis, which fell into the hands of conservatives after most reformists were barred from contesting the February 2004 elections.

He is a close ally of incumbent reformist President Mohammad Khatami, who is nearing the end of his second consecutive term. The constitution bars presidents from serving more than two consecutive mandates.

Iran's Student News Agency (ISNA) said the pro-reform cleric had officially accepted the nomination of his party, the Assembly of Combatant Clerics, during a meeting Monday. He is expected to make a formal announcement in the coming days.

Larijani told reporters he believed Iran "has the potential to be the region's superior power", and he pledged that even if conservatives won the presidential elections -- scheduled for June 17 -- the new government would display a "synthesis" of ideas including those pushed by the incumbent reformists, ISNA added.

He said a priority in the economy was investment in four fields: nanotechnology, biotechnology, nuclear technology for non-military purposes and information and communications technologies.

However he stressed Iran should be "self-reliant" -- a common call from hardliners opposed to reformist efforts to open the economy to larger-scale foreign investment.

On the main foreign policy issue for Iran -- its relations with Washington -- he merely said that a "change in behaviour" by the United States would be to the benefit of the US. He also called for "constructive interaction with the region".

Several prominent conservative politicians have already entered the race, but the reformists are seen by analysts as lacking a heavyweight candidate.

Iran's Long-serving former Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati, now a top advisor to the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has announced he intends to stand for president, as has Mohsen Rezai, a former head of the Revolutionary Guards.

According to AFP, Iran top national security official and nuclear negotiator Hassan Rowhani has confirmed he is considering joining the fast growing list of candidates, while influential former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has also been openly mulling participation but has yet to declare his intentions.

Both clerics, Rowhani and Rafsanjani are also seen as pragmatic conservatives.

On the reformist side, former Higher Education Minister Mostafa Moin has been nominated as the candidate of the Iran's main reformist party, the Participation Front (IIPF), while incumbent Vice President Mohsen Mehr-Alizadeh has also stepped in."