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Iranian Reformist to Run in 2009 Presidential Race

A leading Iranian reformist says he will run in next year's presidential elections, challenging President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who is widely expected to seek a second term.

Former parliamentary speaker Mehdi Karoubi announced his candidacy for the June 2009 poll at a news conference in Tehran Sunday. He said Mr. Ahmadinejad's administration has failed in its handling of foreign policy and economic issues.

Karoubi also criticized the president for denying the Holocaust. He said Mr. Ahmadinejad's past remarks have cost the country a great deal.

Karoubi is the first major political figure to declare himself a candidate for the Iranian presidency.

However, Mr. Ahmadinejad has won crucial backing from the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who recently endorsed the president for a second four-year term in office.

The supreme leader has the final say on all of Iran's affairs. His endorsement in August was the first time he had made such a strong public statement about Mr. Ahmadinejad.

President Ahmadinejad has come under strong criticism from fellow conservatives for his handling of Iran's high inflation and other economic problems. Some of his conservative critics may challenge him for the presidency.

Iran is also facing demands by major world powers to suspend uranium enrichment. Tehran says its nuclear work is aimed at generating electricity, but Washington and its allies accuse Iran of seeking nuclear weapons.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.