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Wednesday, 15 December, 1999, 16:50 GMT
Former Iranian leader candidate in elections

Mr Rafsanjani Mr Rafsanjani is considered a political heavyweight


Jim Muir reports from Tehran

Former Iranian president Ali-Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a veteran of the Islamic Revolution, has registered to run as a candidate in general elections early next year.

Observers believe Mr Rafsanjani, one of the real heavyweights in Iranian politics, is likely to do well in the elections, possibly ending up as speaker of the parliament again.

Several political factions, including the conservative clerical block and the pragmatic Servants of Construction Party, of which he is the political godfather, are expected to give him their active support.

Hostile feelings

But left-wingers and reformists have mixed and largely hostile feelings about him.

Students, in particular, are suspicious that he is exploiting the vacuum left by Abdollah Noori. Regarded as the leading reformist candidate, Mr Noori was jailed last month for spreading dissident views.

Mr Rafsanjani was speaker of parliament before being elected to two terms of office as president of the Islamic Republic -- the most anyone is allowed to serve consecutively under the constitution.

When he stepped down and the presidency passed to the hugely popular reformist, Mohammed Khatami, Mr Rafsanjani certainly did not fade into obscurity.

Key adviser

He was appointed head of the Expediency Council, a high-powered body that advises the supreme leader and adjudicates in constitutional disputes.

This enabled him to remain one of the key figures in the Islamic regime, often receiving visiting foreign dignatories.

Now he has decided, after keeping everyone guessing for a suitable length of time, to plunge back into the political maelstrom.

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See also:
07 Dec 98 |  Middle East
Rafsanjani's daughter cleared
15 Apr 98 |  S/W Asia
Tehran mayor freed on bail
08 Mar 98 |  Middle East
Gulf states warming to Iran

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