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Rafsanjani Gets More Vocal On Iran's Policies, Presidential Run

Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who was president from 1989-97, currently heads Iran's Expediency Council.
Former Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has become increasingly vocal about the country's domestic and foreign policies just as its presidential campaign is about to officially kick off.

Potential candidates will be able to register their nominations from May 7 to May 11, and Rafsanjani's name is being floated as a possible entrant.

The 78-year-old Rafsanjani, who was considered a moderate conservative when he served as president from 1989-97, has been noncommittal about whether he will throw his name into the ring for the June 14 contest.

At a news conference in Tehran on April 28, Rafsanjani announced that he was considering a run for the presidency, a shift from his earlier comments that seemed to rule out that possibility.

He also took the opportunity to state that Tehran needed to "repair its foreign policy" in an apparent criticism of outgoing President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's defiant position against the West.

He also noted that "we are not at war with Israel" even as he added that "if Arab countries are at war with them, we'll help them." The comments were in stark contrast to those made by Ahmadinejad, who has questioned the existence of the Holocaust and referred to Israel as a doomed state. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who holds ultimate religious and political authority in the country, has repeatedly referred to Israel as a "cancer" in the region.

During the news conference, Rafsanjani, who currently heads the Expediency Council, said that if he were president he would form a multiparty cabinet and bring about various reforms to domestic and foreign policies.

Rafsanjani has previously said Iran is in a state of crisis, both at home and abroad, and that only a more pluralistic and moderate approach can solve the country's woes.

As president, Rafsanjani was seen as a pragmatist with a preference for liberal economic policies. He also made attempts to normalize relations with the international community, in particular the Arab world and the West.

Even if Rafsanjani were to file his nomination as a potential presidential candidate, there is no guarantee his name would appear on the ballot. His eligibility would be determined by the powerful Guardians Council -- made up of 12 members appointed directly by Khamenei -- which vets the nominees and determines the short list of official candidates.
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    Frud Bezhan

    Frud Bezhan is acting editor for Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan in the Central Newsroom at RFE/RL. Previously, he was a correspondent and reported from Afghanistan, Kosovo, and Turkey. Prior to joining RFE/RL in 2011, he worked as a freelance journalist in Afghanistan and contributed to several Australian newspapers, including The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.