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Iran’s Aref Quits Presidency Race to Focus Reform Vote on Rohani

Iranian presidential candidate Mohammad Reza Aref stepped down from this week’s election, clearing the way for the other pro-reform contender in the race, Hassan Rohani.

Aref said he left the campaign after receiving a letter from former President Mohammad Khatami asking him to do so. Aref served as a vice-president in Khatami’s administration.

Khatami “as the leader of the reform movement, said my continuation in the race was not beneficial,” Aref said in a statement posted on his website late yesterday.

“With the decision of Mr. Khatami, Mr. Rohani will be the candidate for reformists,” Aref said on his Twitter account today. “In the hope that reforms win.”

Rohani, a cleric who was a chief nuclear negotiator during Khatami’s presidency, has been campaigning for more media freedom and an easing of social restrictions. He has also said he will seek to steer the nation away from the confrontational path with the West that was taken by the incumbent, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Another candidate, Gholam-Ali Haddad Adel, dropped out of the race yesterday to prevent the dilution of votes for conservative contenders, leaving six candidates to compete in the June 14 election. Ahmadinejad is ineligible to run for a third consecutive time.

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