• Iran presidential bets woo undecided voters

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    TEHRAN: Iran’s six presidential hopefuls staged last-minute election campaigning on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila), hoping to woo millions of voters undecided between a slew of conservatives and a moderate cleric backed by reformists.

    Momentum has built for cleric Hassan Rowhani, a former top nuclear negotiator, after the withdrawal of reformist Mohammad Reza Aref, and the endorsement of two former presidents, pro-reform Mohammad Khatami and pragmatist Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

    Rowhani, 64, faces stiff competition in Friday’s election from the conservatives, especially hardline top nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, Tehran mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf and former-Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati.

    The three held separate campaign rallies in Tehran in the late afternoon, with none agreeing to step down to boost conservative chances.

    An opinion poll published by Mehr news agency showed Qalibaf was leading with 17.8 percent followed by Rowhani with 14.6 percent and Jalili with 9.8 percent.

    The number of undecided voters in the survey stood at 30.5 percent—translating to about 15 million voters—while 11.3 percent declined to answer.

    The surge of support for Rowhani came after Aref, the only reformist candidate, announced on Tuesday he was withdrawing at the urging of Khatami.

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