Iran reformist 'drops out of presidential race'

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The Independent Online

Iran's most prominent reformist, the former president Mohammed Khatami, has decided to pull out of the race against the country's hard-line President to avoid splitting the pro-reform vote in upcoming elections, according to a senior adviser.

Mr Khatami's entry into the race against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a month ago boosted hopes among the reformists, who favour improving ties with the West and liberalising Iran's conservative Islamic government. But two other prominent reformists have also entered the race for the election on 12 June.

One, the former prime minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, is a former hard-liner who Mr Khatami said has a better chance of siphoning conservatives' votes. Reformers believe they have a strong chance of unseating Mr Ahmadinejad, who came to power in 2005 but has lost popularity because of his handling of the country's faltering economy and other issues.