Full Coverages>World>Iran Nuke Issue>News

Iranian candidate vows to open country
Updated: 2005-06-01 18:22

TEHRAN, Iran - Iran's leading presidential candidate promised Tuesday to open up his homeland to the world, a vision that seems to contradict the goals of the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Khamenei has called on Iranians to elect an anti-Western president, but Hashemi Rafsanjani said Tuesday that Iran needs "to think global, since globalization is a reality and not a foreign-made (concept)."

"Iran needs a new form of communication with the world. We have to take the international climate into account and take advantage of it," said Rafsanjani, 70, a former president who is considered the front-runner among the eight candidates in the June 17 election.

Rafsanjani is running under the slogan "Let's work together." It is interpreted as a conciliatory gesture, because he has moved frequently between the hard-line and moderate camps in a country where conservative clerics have maintained control despite strong electoral showings by reformers.

Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters, denied on Tuesday that he backs any candidate, though half the eight hopefuls are strongly loyal to him.

"Some people may say that I support a particular candidate but it is not right," state-run television quoted Khamenei as saying. "I have just one vote and nobody will know for whom it will be cast in the ballot box on election day."

Rafsanjani is unlikely to get that vote. Khamenei said last week that the presidency requires youth, power and jubilation.

Rafsanjani is one of few candidates to focus on Iran's foreign relations.

Mostafa Moin, a reformist and close ally of outgoing reform President Mohammad Khatami, has promised freedom and democratic reforms. Moin enjoys popularity among Iran's predominantly young population.

Other candidates have focused on job creation and reducing inflation.

Clerical leaders hope for a big election turnout to boost their credibility at a time when Iran remains under intense international pressure over its nuclear program, which Washington and others suspect is aimed at developing atomic weapons, a charge that Iran denies.

But private surveys indicate that only about half of Iran's 48 million voter plan to cast ballots.

  Story Tools