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Ahmadinejad bows out of Iranian presidential race

Former Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, will not run for president in next year's Iranian election. Ahmadinejad's decision comes following the "advice" of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who warned his candidacy would increase divisions in Iran.

"In carrying out the intentions of the leader of the revolution, I have no plans to take part in the elections next year," Ahmadinejad said in a letter to Khamenei, published on his website dolatebahar.com yesterday.

"You [Khamenei] advised me it is not expedient to run and I announced my obedience," Ahmadinejad's letter stated.

Khamenei announced last Monday that he had advised "a certain person" who came to him and he then "told him not to do a certain thing, believing it would be to the benefit of both the person himself and the country."

Following the former president's now widely publicised letter, it is now apparent that the individual receiving the supreme leader's "advice" was none other than Ahmadinejad himself.

Ahmadinejad, a hardliner who increased Iran's international isolation by refusing to negotiate about its nuclear programme and questioning the Holocaust, had not announced a re-election bid but Reuters reported that several speeches in recent months had prompted speculation of a political comeback.

By ruling himself out, he has removed one potentially serious challenger to President Hassan Rouhani's bid for a second term at next May's election, although he is still likely to face a challenger opposed to his policy of detente with the West.

Other candidates included the former commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Mohsen Rezai, but he also ruled himself out of the running last Monday. Conservatives will now be scrambling to find a candidate to oppose Rouhani.

Khamenei, who has the final say in all matters of state, was quoted as saying Ahmadinejad's candidacy would polarise society.

Iranian law bars a president from seeking a third consecutive term. But Ahmadinejad would have been able to run again after the gap caused by Rouhani's term.

"I will proudly remain a small soldier of the revolution and a servant of the people," Ahmadinejad said.

Ahmadinejad was first elected president in 2005. His disputed re-election in 2009 prompted the biggest street protests in the Iran's history since the Iranian Revolution that brought Khomeini to power in 1979. The protests led to a security crackdown in which several people were killed and hundreds arrested.

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