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Last Updated: Monday, 25 April, 2005, 14:53 GMT 15:53 UK
Rafsanjani hints at Iran poll bid
By Frances Harrison
BBC News, Tehran

Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani
Polls put Mr Rafsanjani ahead of other candidates
Former Iranian President and cleric Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has indicated he plans to stand in June's presidential elections.

He told Iran's state-run news agency he felt he had to "swallow the bitter pill" of contesting elections again for the sake of the country.

Opinion polls suggest Mr Rafsanjani will be the frontrunner in the contest.

Local media has been on tenterhooks about when he might declare he is in the race.

High profile

Nominations are not due until mid-May, but in a sense campaigning has already begun, with several candidates holding news conferences to explain their agendas.

Mr Rafsanjani has shown a great deal of bashfulness about entering the fray.

Even now, he said he was only thinking of contesting to prevent a low turnout because the other candidates were not well known or experienced.

He has twice been president of Iran in the 1990s and is currently head of the Expediency Council - a powerful arbitration body.

In the complicated factional politics of Iran, he is categorised as a pragmatic conservative, someone who backs private enterprise and is in theory willing to engage with the West, but he is a conservative in terms of domestic social policy.

A recent opinion poll put Mr Rafsanjani way ahead of the other candidates, with 16% of the vote compared with 5% for the official candidate of the divided conservative camp.

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