Middle East News
Iran's supreme leader to stay neutral in presidential elections
Mar 21, 2009, 9:10 GMT
Tehran - Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Saturday that he would stay neutral in the June presidential elections and not support any candidate.
Khamenei was referring to press speculation that he would favour President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and prefer him to stay for another four-year tenure.
'I only have one vote and I will not tell anyone to vote for any special person,' the supreme leader said in a televised speech in the city of Mashad in north-eastern Iran.
He said that it was his duty to support the president and the government, 'and to stay fair,' but not to influence for whom the people should vote.
Former prime minister Mir-Hossein Moussavi and moderate cleric Mehdi Karroubi have announced their candidacies to challenge Ahmadinejad in the June 12 elections.
The opposition groups however are trying to persuade the cleric Karroubi to withdraw from the presidential race in favour of Moussavi so that the votes against Ahmadinejad would not be split.
During Moussavi's premiership from 1981-89, Khamenei served as president before being appointed supreme leader after the death of revolutionary leader Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in June 1989.
In 1989 the prime minister portfolio was scrapped from the constitution and since then the president has been head of the executive power, and the number two after the supreme leader who, in line with Iran's constitution, has the final say on all state affairs.