Thursday, March 17, 2005

Iran's Rafsanjani may bid for president

World News Article | "Iran's Rafsanjani may bid for president
Mon Mar 14, 2005 9:26 AM GMT
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TEHRAN (Reuters) - Former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who supporters say has the political acumen to resolve Iran's problems with the West, has dropped a heavy hint he will make a comeback bid in June's presidential elections.

Speaking to local media owners and editors on Sunday, Rafsanjani said: "As we are getting closer to the elections, I feel my responsibility is getting heavier."

"If a capable and popular person is found among the candidates, then so much the better. But if such an individual does not exist, be sure I will come back," the official IRNA news agency quoted him as saying.

Rafsanjani, 70, who held the presidency from 1989 to 1997, is a moderate conservative who supports economic liberalisation and improved ties with the West.

If he does not run in the June 17 election to replace reformist President Mohammad Khatami, a hardline conservative is almost certain to win, political analysts say.

Khatami is ineligible to stand for a third consecutive term and reformist candidates are expected to struggle overcoming tough vetting procedures run by hardliners and public frustration with Khatami's meagre reforms after eight years in office.

IRNA released an opinion poll on Friday which showed Rafsanjani had an early lead in the presidential race.

According to the IRNA survey of 7,100 people, 13.9 percent said they would vote for Rafsanjani, who currently heads the powerful Expediency Council arbitration body.

The next most popular candidate was former parliament speaker Mehdi Karroubi, a reformist cleric, who was backed by 4.8 percent of those questioned by IRNA. Former foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati led a group of hardline conservative aspirants with 4.2 percent."