Saturday, April 16, 2005

Reuters | Rafsanjani says more definite to run in Iran poll

Reuters | Latest Financial News / Full News Coverage: "Rafsanjani says more definite to run in Iran poll

Sat April 16, 2005 3:10 PM GMT+05:30
TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iranian political heavyweight and former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani says he is now "more definite" to run for president on June 17, Iranian newspapers reported on Saturday.

Rafsanjani, 70, said he had been waiting for a more suitable candidate to come forward but was now increasingly pessimistic that one would turn up.

"My candidacy has become more definite," he was quoted as saying at a religious meeting in north Tehran by the official Iran newspaper.

"My presence would maximise voter turnout," he was quoted as saying in the Sharq reformist daily.

Liberal cleric Mohammad Khatami has to step down this summer after two four-year terms as president of OPEC's second-biggest crude producer.

Rafsanjani is seen as a pragmatic conservative whose 1989-1997 presidency was marked by modest cultural relaxations and pushes for economic restructuring.

He heads the Expediency Council, Iran's top legislative arbitration council. Last year the body overhauled a key plank of the constitution to allow large-scale privatisations.

Although viewed as business-minded, in contrast to radical conservative parliamentarians, Rafsanjani has been keen to deny that he has amassed great wealth.

He has been plagued by rumours he and his proteges have huge holdings in pistachio farming, airlines and car industry. He says he is poorer now than before the 1979 Islamic revolution.

The hardline conservative camp is represented in the presidential race by former Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati and Ali Larijani, a former head of state broadcasting.

Both men, like Rafsanjani, are advisers to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, Iran's former chief of police, has thrown his hat into the ring as a more moderate conservative.

Reformists will probably be represented in the race by Mehdi Karroubi, former parliament speaker, and former Higher Education Minister Mostafa Moin."