Iran Hard-Liners Fear Defeat in Election - Yahoo! News:
By ALI AKBAR DAREINI, Associated Press Writer Fri Jun 10, 9:39 AM ET
TEHRAN, Iran - With a week to go before presidential elections, a strategist for
Iran's hard-line politicians is advising several conservatives to drop out and unite behind a single candidate or face losing to the reformers.
But there is little sign any will pull out. That leaves them trailing and former president Hashemi Rafsanjani — who advocates improving relations with Washington — as the apparent front-runner.
Rafsanjani is presenting himself as the only candidate the world can rely on in negotiations over Iran's nuclear program, which the Bush administration alleges is a front for developing atomic weapons.
He 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.
The June 17 election will choose a successor to outgoing President
Mohammad Khatami, who came to power in 1997 but whose attempts to bring reforms were thwarted by hard-line clerics loyal to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Khatami is barred by law from seeking a third term.
If no candidate gains 50 percent on June 17, a run-off between the two top vote-getters will be held a week later.
Hossein Shariatmadari, a close aide to Khamenei, has said publicly that the hard-line candidates have no chance of winning unless some withdraw."