Friday, April 15, 2005

Iran News - Rafsanjani 'more definite' to stand for president

Iran News - Rafsanjani 'more definite' to stand for president: "Rafsanjani 'more definite' to stand for president

Friday, April 15, 2005 - ©2005

LONDON, April 15 (IranMania) - Iran's powerful cleric Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani is "more definite" about contesting the June 17 presidential election but has not taken a final decision, the student news agency ISNA reported on Friday.

"My presence in the elections is becoming more definite," the country's former pragmatist president said after meeting with a group of university students in Tehran on Thursday night, according to ISNA.

He said he would make a final decision on his candidature "within the next two to three weeks," adding: "But for the time being I have not reached a conclusion".

Rafsanjani who heads the Expediency Council -- Iran's top political arbitration body -- said he would feel obliged to stand if his presence would result in the election of "a president with high votes, to tackle tensions."

He said "tensions emit from the US and Westerners' propaganda that are hoping for a low turnout.

"If this happens it would undermine the validity of the elected president. Real democracy occurs when the president is elected with acceptable voter turnout," he said.

But he said that he "prefers someone else to carry on the task of president,"and so would "wait a few more days for that someone to step in."

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

Several prominent conservative politicians have also already entered the race.

Long-serving former foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati, now a top advisor to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has announced he intends to stand, as has Mohsen Rezai, a former head of the Revolutionary Guards militia, and Ali Larijani, a former state broadcasting boss.

They have been referred to in the Iranian press as coming from the "fundamentalist camp", while Rafsanjani, who has been openly mulling whether to compete, has been presenting himself as more of a moderate.

A new face, Iran's popular former national police chief Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, announced his candidacy last Monday.

Representing the reformists, are Mostafa Moin, a former higher education minister, and Mehdi Karoubi, a former parliament speaker."