Monday, April 25, 2005

Middle East Online: Rafsanjani poised for presidential comeback

Middle East Online: "Rafsanjani poised for presidential comeback bid

Iran’s powerful cleric says his national, Islamic duty obliges him to be candidate if feudal rivalries continue.

TEHRAN - Top Iranian cleric Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani signalled Monday he was poised to attempt a comeback as president, criticising what he said was bickering between the current candidates.

"I was expecting that the social climate in the country would move towards unity, and that the personalities and political groups prioritise the interests of the country and the regime," the powerful cleric said in a statement.

"If the feudal rivalries continue, my national and Islamic duty obliges me to be a candidate," added the charismatic politician, who served as Iran's president from 1989 to 1997.

Rafsanjani is currently the head of the Expediency Council - Iran's top political arbitration body - and has for months been openly mulling a bid to take back the Islamic republic's number two job when the country goes to the polls on June 17.

He has been presenting himself as a pragmatic conservative detached from Iran's right-left rivalries.

The race has so far been marked by the absence of a strong pro-reform candidate to succeed incumbent moderate President Mohammad Khatami - who has served the maximum two consecutive terms allowed - as well as divisions in the conservative camp.

Iran's main conservative alliance, the Council for Coordinating Forces in the Islamic Revolution (CCFIR), has chosen the hardline former state television boss Ali Larijani as its choice to contest the polls.

But two of his chief rivals, former foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati and populist ex-police chief Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, have refused to pull out, as has former Revolutionary Guards chief Mohsen Rezai."