Former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says he will not run in next year's presidential election, because the country's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned him his candidacy would increase divisions in Iran.
Khamenei, who has the final say in all matters of state, was quoted Monday as saying Ahmadinejad's candidacy would polarize Iranian society and create harmful divisions in the country.
Ahmadinejad previously served two four-year terms from 2005 to 2013
By ruling himself out, Ahmadinejad has removed one potentially serious challenger to President Hassan Rouhani's bid for a second term in May's election. But Rouhani is likely to face a challenger opposed to his policy of detente with the West.
"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. “By the grace of God, I am proud to continue as a small soldier for the revolution,'' the statement said.
Controversial second term
Ahmadinejad was re-elected to his second term after a contested vote count in 2009 that prompted unprecedented massive protests in the Islamic Republic’s history. The protests were followed by a security force crackdown during which thousands of people were detained, dozens killed and others tortured.
All Iranian presidents since 1981 have served two four-year mandates in Iran's cleric-governed country.
Iranian law bars a president from seeking a third consecutive term, but Ahmadinejad is eligible to run after sitting out Rouhani's term.
As president of Iran, Ahmadinejad questioned the scale of the Holocaust, prognosticated Israel's demise and expanded Iran's contested nuclear program.
Iran's economy suffered under heavy international sanctions during his administration. The West feared the Islamic Republic's nuclear program would be used to build atomic bombs. Iran insisted its program was for peaceful purposes.
Ahmadinejad also wrote and publicly released a letter to the U.S. President Barack Obama in August asking him to “quickly fix” a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that would allow families of people killed in attacks linked to Iran to collect damages from the country's frozen assets.