• IRAN REFORMISTS RALLY BEHIND MODERATE CANDIDATE

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    IRAN20130613

    An Iranian clergyman walks past electoral posters of presidential candidates along a street in Qom, south of Tehran, on June 9. AFP PHOTO

    TEHRAN: Reformists led by former-President Mohammad Khatami have rallied behind the sole moderate candidate standing on Friday’s presidential vote, as they seek to loosen the conservative grip on power in Iran.

    Khatami urged voters to support Hassan Rowhani hours after the only reformist candidate Mohammad Reza Aref pulled out of the race.

    “Due to the duty I have to the country and the fate of the people of Iran I will vote for my esteemed brother Hassan Rowhani,” Khatami said on his website.

    “I ask all, especially reformists and those who seek the dignity and elevation of the nation,” to vote for Rowhani “in order for their demands to be met.”

    Rowhani also won a second major endorsement from pragmatic former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who said the former nuclear negotiator who champions better international ties is “more suitable” for the post.

    The reformist support is seen as improving the chances of Rowhani, 64, of mounting a credible bid against the other major contenders, mostly conservatives seen as close to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

    The election is for a successor to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose eight years in office have been marked by stiff Western sanctions over Tehran’s controversial nuclear drive and the economic turmoil they have caused.

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