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Iranian Reformist Candidate Says Tackling Economy First Priority

Iranian reformist presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi says his first priority if elected next month would be tackling Iran's worsening economic situation.

In an interview with the French news agency published Tuesday, Mr. Karroubi says he would assemble a team of economic experts to formulate policy.

The former Iranian parliament speaker also promised to attract foreign investment and boost the role of the private sector in Iran's economy, which is 80-percent state-controlled.

Mr. Karroubi also vowed to implement social reforms in the Islamic state, such as removing "moral police" vans from the streets. He was referring to patrols that force women to adopt a strict Islamic dress code.

Mr. Karroubi says he takes a "moderate" approach to reform. He says Iran missed a "golden opportunity" for reform during the reformist presidency of Mohammad Khatami from 1997 to 2005 because "radicals" had taken over the movement.

Mr. Karroubi also says Iran will not stop its uranium enrichment program, which the United States and its allies fear is designed to make nuclear weapons. Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful.

Mr. Karroubi is one of two reformist candidates competing against conservative Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the June 12 election.

The other reformist, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, is seen as the main challenger to Mr. Ahmadinejad, who is seeking a second four-year term. A fourth candidate in the race is conservative Mohsen Rezaei, a former leader of Iran's Revolutionary Guards.

Mr. Ahmadinejad's rivals have criticized his handling of the economy, which suffers from high inflation. The president has won praise at home for trying to raise Iran's profile in rocket and satellite technology.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.