Former Iranian President Mohammed Khatami declared Sunday he would run again for president, setting the stage for a major political showdown in coming months between the popular reformist leader _ who made dialogue with the West a centerpiece of his eight years in office _ and the country’s ruling hard-liners.
Khatami’s candidacy poses a serious challenge to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose mixture of anti-Western rhetoric and fiery nationalism sharply contrasts with Khatami’s tempered tones and appeals for global dialogue.
“I seriously announce my candidacy in the next (presidential) election,” Khatami announced Sunday after a meeting with his supporters.
Iran’s former reformist President Mohammad Khatami, left, seen, at a ceremony organized by his party, a group of pro-reform clerics, in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, Feb. 8, 2009. Iran’s former reformist president declared Sunday that he will run for president again in the country’s upcoming elections, posing a serious challenge to hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.(AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
He said he decided to seek the presidency in the June 12 vote because it was impossible for someone like himself who was interested in the fate of Iran to remain silent. The 65-year-old liberal cleric said he is “attached to the country’s greatness and the people’s right to have control over their own fate.”
Khatami’s decision to run against Ahmadinejad could significantly shake up Iran’s politics, appealing to citizens disillusioned by the country’s failing economy and Ahmadinejad’s staunch anti-U.S. foreign policy.
Relations between the United States and Iran improved marginally during Khatami’s eight years in office, and he encouraged athletic and cultural exchanges….