Page last updated at 12:57 GMT, Tuesday, 5 May 2009 13:57 UK

Iran president hopefuls register

An Iranian woman  registers as a candidate for the upcoming presidential elections
Officials say women will be allowed to stand in the presidential election

Iranians hoping to stand as candidates in the presidential elections in June have begun signing up at the start of a five-day registration period.

Women putting their names forward will be considered this time, officials say. In previous elections, female candidates have all been disqualified.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has not yet formally declared his candidacy but is expected to stand.

Mr Ahmadinejad is facing mounting criticism especially over the economy.

The former prime minister, Mir Hossein Mousavi, who is considered the main challenger for Mr Ahmadinejad and the former parliament speaker, Mehdi Karroubi, have already announced their plan to stand.

'Keeping power'

President Ahmadinejad has been accused by reformists and conservatives alike of mishandling the economy and wasting Iran's windfall from high oil prices.

But the BBC's Jon Leyne in Tehran says Mr Ahmadinejad is a skilled exponent at obtaining and holding onto power, while the opposition is demoralised and divided.

During the last presidential elections in 2005 more than 1,000 Iranians, many of them with no political background, registered their names.

The Guardians Council, which oversees elections and vets candidates, allowed only eight to stand.

Registration is seen by many as a way of publicly making a point without any great hope of being allowed to stand.

One of the women who signed up on Tuesday was 37-year-old Halimeh Faghih. She told AFP: "I want to prove women can come forward and speak out on social issues."

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