Top Iranian reformer to challenge Ahmadinejad, reports say

Mohammad Khatami, in a photo from October, said Sunday he is running for Iran's presidency.
Ending weeks of speculation, former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami announced Sunday that he will run against the hardline incumbent, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, according to Iranian media reports.

“I declare that I will stand for the next elections,” Khatami told reporters on Sunday, according to Iran’s state-run news agency, IRNA. Khatami, a leading reformist, had indicated for weeks that he intended to run in the June elections. Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency also reported that Khatami formally declared his candidacy on Sunday. Khatami overwhelmingly won the presidency in 1997, raising hopes that the reformist movement would bring religious and democratic freedoms to the Islamic republic. But the real power in Iran rests in the hands of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameni. By the time Khatami left office in 2005 — succeeded by hardliner Ahmadinejad — he was unable to make major changes due to the opposition of hardline elements in Iran’s clerical establishment.