Former foreign minister Mottaki joins Iran's presidential race

Wed Feb 27, 2013 4:41am EST
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DUBAI (Reuters) - Former Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki has announced he will run for president in an election in June likely to be dominated by seething conservative rivalries.

The presidential poll is a crucial test for Iran after the last one in 2009 ignited mass street protests in Tehran and other cities after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election.

As Iran remains locked in a stand-off with world powers over its nuclear program, rifts between Ahmadinejad and rivals loyal to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei threaten to tarnish the legitimacy of the state's theocratic ruling system.

"I will propose a plan in line with Supreme Leader's beliefs and the people's demands so that in a government with the name of the Islamic Republic, the president would be more than a sympathizer for the people and give something more than a future promise," Mottaki said on his website on Tuesday in a message to Iranians announcing his candidacy.

In a sign that Mottaki may not agree with the Supreme Leader on everything, a note on his website last month criticized "crude" suggestions set out by Iran's nuclear negotiators.

Diplomats and analysts say the defiant position of Saeed Jalili, Iran's chief negotiator, is firmly backed by Khamenei, who has the last word on nuclear and other state policies.

Jalili said two days of talks with world powers that ended in Almaty on Wednesday were a "positive step", but there was no sign of a breakthrough in the dispute. Iran denies Western accusations that it is seeking a nuclear weapons capability.

Mottaki is viewed as an ally of parliament speaker Ali Larijani, a conservative who lost to Ahmadinejad in the 2005 election and has since kept up an intense rivalry with him.

Mottaki served as foreign minister for five years until the president dismissed him in December 2010.   Continued...

EDITORS' NOTE: Reuters and other foreign media are subject to Iranian restrictions on their ability to film or take pictures in Tehran. Manouchehr Mottaki speaks during Ninth Asia Cooperation Dialogue in Tehran November 8, 2010. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi