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Former Iran President Will Seek Job Again

May 11, 2005

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) _ Former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani, a savvy pragmatist who has attempted to make contacts with the United States in the past, said Tuesday he would seek the job again as more than 90 Iranians formally signed up to run in next month’s presidential election.

Despite his announcement, Rafsanjani’s name was not among those on the first day of registration for the election to choose a successor to reformist President Mohammad Khatami. Instead, most applicants were members of the public looking to try their hand _ including an 18-year-old woman, a guard at a tile factory and a man who shouted ``Death to America!″ as he filled in the registration form.

Most knew they had little chance of being allowed to run, hoping instead to make a political statement or just get the attention of friends. The hard-line Guardian Council, a constitutional watchdog that supervises the elections, will have a week to vet the applicants. The council has already said it will not allow women to run.

Major candidates usually wait until the last days of the registration period, which ends Saturday evening.

The vote will choose a successor to the outgoing Khatami, who came to power in a landslide in 1997 but whose attempts to bring political and social reforms were stifled by hard-line clerics led by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He is barred by law from seeking a third term.

Rafsanjani, the likely front-runner in this election, has frequently moved between the hard-line and more moderate camps. He has in the past sought to make contacts with the United States, a stance shunned by hard-liners.

``Running in the June 17 election has been one of the most difficult decisions in years of my life,″ Rafsanjani said in a statement.

The ruling clerics see the upcoming vote as a chance to consolidate their grip on power, and a number of close Khamenei loyalists are expected to run.

Among them are the former commander of the elite Revolutionary Guards, Mohsen Rezaei; the top police commander Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf; Tehran Mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; the former head of state radio and television Ali Larijani; former foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati; and lawmaker Ahmad Tavakoli.

Iran’s largest reform party, the Islamic Iran Participation Front, has chosen former Cabinet minister Mostafa Moin, a close Khatami ally, as its candidate. Other reformists support former parliamentary speaker Mahdi Karroubi.

At the Interior Ministry building Tuesday, only unknown hopefuls rushed to register.

Abolqasem Khaki traveled from Meibod, a desert town in central Iran, to be the first in line. The tile factory guard said he didn’t expect to be approved but wanted to test his chances. He said his program, if confirmed to run, will be to improve working conditions.

Ali Akbar Nasiri Khansari walked into the building with shouts of ``God is great.″ He wore a headband reading ``There is no God but almighty Allah,″ carried a Quran in one hand and an Iranian flag in the other. ``Salute to Khamenei″ he shouted.

A banner hanging from his shoulder described him as ``servant of the Iranian nation.″

Azam Ghaderi, at 18 the youngest hopeful, registered with her brother, Mohsen. She said she understands politics and said her classmates at three schools will vote for her.

Women are barred from running on the basis of a controversial interpretation of the constitution by the Guardian Council. The constitution says the president must be elected from among political ``rijal″ _ an Arabic word that literally means ``men″ but can be interpreted simply as political personalities regardless of their gender. Many Arabic words have been incorporated into Persian or Farsi.

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