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Asia-pacific

Reformist Karoubi to run in 2009 presidential elections

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-06-10

Mehdi Karoubi, a reformist Iranian religious leader, has announced he will run in next year's presidential election, challenging conservative President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is widely expected to seek a second four-year term.

Mehdi Karroubi, the leader of Iran's National Confidence reformist party, announced at a press conference on Sunday his candidacy for the 2009 Iranian presidential race.

"After many consultations I have conducted, and knowing the difficulties that comes with standing (as candidate), I announce my availability for the  candidacy," Karroubi said.

"Now that I have entered the race after a serious decision I will carry out activities and will be present until the end," added the mid-ranking cleric and twice parliamentary speaker between 2000-2004 and 1990-1992.

Karroubi also warned the government not to "use it power against other candidates." He did not elaborate.

No Iranian political leader -- including incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- has yet officially announced his candidacy for the presidential election which is to be held on June 12.

But ex-president Mohammad Khatami, who is known to the West as the champion of reform in Iran, has revealed he is considering running for the post again next year, newspapers reported earlier this month.

Karroubi, 71, did not rule out pulling out of the race if another reformist candidate had better chances of winning the presidency.

"I made a proposal to other candidates to declare their candidacy, to hold their campaigns and after that we will discuss the situation and determine who is the most likely to succeed," Karroubi said.

Speaking about Khatami, who served as president between 1997-2005, he said: "Khatami should take his decision himself and when he enters the race and start his campaign then we will look at the situation."

Karroubi was a confidante of revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini who appointed him head of the foundation for Iranian hajj pilgrims in the 1980s, a background that makes him more palatable to hardliners than other reformists.

He has stubbornly refused to allow his Etemad-e Melli (National Confidence) party to be integrated into Khatami's main reformist coalition in the 2008 parliamentary elections, despite calls for unity.

Karroubi stood for the 2005 presidential elections, raising eyebrows with an extraordinary promise to give cheques worth 55 dollars to every Iranian if he won.

In the 1980s, Karroubi was part of a group of leftist "radicals" who strongly supported Iran's last prime minister, Mir Hussein Moussavi, and pushed for greater state control over the economy, accompanied by freer public debate.

For Karroubi, the presidential election would be a case of unfinished business.

He bitterly claimed that irregularities ruined what he believes were strong chances of winning the last election and even took the extraordinary step of writing a letter to Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to say so.

Date created : 2008-10-13