Page last updated at 16:00 GMT, Friday, 17 June 2005 17:00 UK

Profile: Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani

Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, who could win the presidency for a third term in a run-off election on 24 June, has been a dominant figure in Iranian politics since the 1980s.

Described as a "pragmatic conservative", he is part of the religious establishment, but also open to a broader range of views.

"This country must be managed in a non-partisan way," he said before the election, adding that in his earlier terms as president (1989-97) he chose ministers on merit.

On the nuclear issue, he says Iran is ready to negotiate, but "not to accept bullying and imposition". And he has warned Washington that its "threats" are futile.

"Iran is not the place for acts of adventurism," he says. "We advise you to enter through the gate of peace."

In 2002, Mr Rafsanjani was appointed head of the powerful Expediency Council, which arbitrates in disputes between the Majlis - Iran's parliament - and the Guardian Council, which can block legislation.

Khomeini follower

Born in 1934 in south-eastern Iran to a family of farmers, he studied theology in the holy city of Qom with Ayatollah Khomeini, whose close follower he became. He was imprisoned several times under the Shah.

Mr Rafsanjani was Majlis speaker from 1980-89. In the last year of the 1980-88 war with Iraq, Ayatollah Khomeini appointed him acting commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

He is seen as the main mover behind Iran's acceptance of the UN Security Council resolution which ended the war.

As president, Mr Rafsanjani sought to encourage a rapprochement with the West and re-establish Iran as a regional power. His influence in Lebanon helped to bring about the release of Western hostages there in the early 1990s.

Domestically, he has sought to move Iran from the state-controlled economy of the war years to a more market-based system.

His critics say this policy failed to deliver on social justice. However, he opposed harsh Islamic penal codes and promoted better job prospects for women.

'US plots'

There have been persistent accusations that he amassed a personal fortune thanks to his political connections - allegations that he has always denied.

After the war in Iraq, he used Friday prayers to denounce US "plots" in the region.

"Anyone who stretches out their hands towards Iran will have those hands cut off," he said in one sermon.

And in June 2003, he warned students who took to the streets over the slow pace of reform that the US was "pinning its hopes" on them.

"They should take care they are not entrapped by the Americans' sinister networks."

He is married with five children. His younger daughter, Faezeh Hashemi, is a women's right activist whose journal Zan (Woman) was closed down by hardliners in 1997.

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