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The BBC's Adrian Foreman
"His critics say he should learn to be tougher and play politics more expertly"
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The BBC's Jim Muir
"Twice he was overcome with emotion and had to stop speaking"
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Friday, 4 May, 2001, 10:14 GMT 11:14 UK
Khatami ends waiting game
President Khatami arrives at interior ministry to register for elections
The president arrived at the ministry in sombre mood
Iranian President Mohammad Khatami has ended months of speculation by announcing that he will stand for re-election in presidential elections due to be held on 8 June.

The 58-year-old cleric, who had until Sunday to declare his candidacy, filed his papers at the Interior Ministry registration office in Tehran on Friday morning to stand for another four-year term.

We have so far paid a heavy price for democracy, and there will be more to pay

President Khatami
Mr Khatami, who had delayed signalling his intention to run again, made an emotional 15-minute speech in which he admitted he "would have preferred to serve the nation and the people" in some other capacity besides president.

He repeatedly broke down in tears as he spoke of his doubts about whether or not to run. "There was talk that I doubted whether to stand, and it is true," he said.

I would have preferred to serve the nation and the people outside of the presidency

President Khatami
"The origin of my doubts was the future, and concern about the future, of the revolution and the nation, and I am still concerned," the 57-year-old cleric said.

"I would have preferred to serve the nation and the people outside of the presidency."

Mr Khatami himself has publicly lamented the limited powers of his office, which has no control over the conservative-dominated courts, police and army, to fulfil his pledge to institute the rule of law in Iran.

High expectations

Scores of journalists, politicians, student leaders and opposition figures have been jailed or are awaiting trial, including some of Mr Khatami's closest political allies.

Iran presidential election candidate
Over 100 people have registered to stand
"Unfortunately we have so far paid a heavy price for democracy, and there will be more to pay," he said.

Mr Khatami is widely expected to win a second term, although anything less than the landslide mandate he won in 1997, with nearly 70% of the popular vote, will be seen by many as a victory for conservatives.

He had especially strong support from women and young people four years ago; but there has since been powerful conservative counter-attack, which has brought his agenda to a virtual standstill and undermined some of his popular support.

Overcoming obstacles

Outside the interior ministry, Mr Khatami maintained that the reform movement had made some great achievements in the face of unspecified "difficulties".

"l I think that the overall results and the achievements are prominent and positive," he said.

At least 135 other candidates have so far registered to contest the election, although the country's conservatives have not yet endorsed any major figure as their candidate.

After registration, all candidates are vetted by the conservative Guardian Council, which is expected to disqualify many of the leading reformists.

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See also:

04 May 01 | Middle East
Analysis: Khatami vs Khamenei
04 May 01 | Middle East
Khatami's mountain to climb
04 May 01 | Middle East
Guide: How Iran votes
26 Nov 00 | Middle East
Khatami laments limited powers
29 Apr 01 | Middle East
Reformers barred from Iranian poll
30 Apr 01 | Middle East
Reformists condemn Iranian poll ban
26 Apr 00 | Middle East
How far will Iran's conservatives go?
20 Dec 00 | Country profiles
Country profile: Iran
20 Dec 00 | Middle East
Timeline: Iran
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