Iranian news agencies have reported that Mohammad Khatami is considering retiring from the presidential contest in June to support another reformist candidate, the former premier Mir Hossein Mousavi.
AFP - Iran's ex-president Mohammad Khatami is considering withdrawing from the June presidential vote to support another reformist candidate, Iranian news agencies reported on Sunday.
The Mehr agency quoted a source close to Khatami as saying the former president during a meeting with members of his campaign had indicated he would withdraw.
It did not say when the official announcement was expected.
Fars reported that Khatami had decided to withdraw from the election race but gave no details.
A close aide of Khatami told AFP that there "was no decision yet."
"He is meeting Mir Hossein Mousavi later today and tomorrow he will meet other reformist leaders. After these meetings a decision will be taken," the aide said on condition of anonymity.
Mousavi is a reputed moderate and former prime minister of Iran who also plans to contest the June 12 vote.
Mehr reported that during the meeting with his campaign officials, Khatami had spoken out against what he said were attempts to dilute support for reformists.
"Opponents want to divide my supporters and supporters of Mousavi," Khatami was quoted as saying.
"It is not in our interest. Also some conservatives are supporting Mousavi. He (Mousavi) thinks that we have to change the situation. Mousavi is popular and will be able to execute his plans and I prefer he stays in the race."
Before announcing his candidacy on February 8, Khatami had frequently spoken in support of Mousavi and had indicated that either he or the former premier would contest the vote.
Former Iranian parliament speaker Mehdi Karroubi is also planning to run in the election while incumbent hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is yet to officially announce his candidacy.
Khatami, 65, was president of Iran between 1997 and 2005.
In his previous presidential term, Khatami inspired the Iranian youth with promises of social and political reforms while Iran's relations with the West were less confrontational than they are now under Ahmadinejad.
When Khatami announced his candidacy, hopes were raised that these ties, now frosty over Tehran's controversial nuclear programme, could begin to thaw.
Western nations accuse Tehran of seeking to make atomic weapons under the guise of a civilian nuclear programme. Iran says its atomic ambitions are entirely peaceful.
Mousavi was Iran's last prime minister between 1981 and 1989. Iran scrapped the post of premier when the constitution was revised in 1989.
Since then Mousavi has kept a low profile and rarely given interviews.
He is a member of the Expediency Council, the top political arbitration body, and heads Iran's Art Academy, which was established to safeguard the national heritage.
He also served as presidential advisor from 1989 to 2005.
Presidential candidates have to register officially with the interior ministry over a five day period starting May 5.
Date created : 2009-03-15