Mousavi to stand for Iran executive

TEHRAN: Mir Hossein Mousavi, a former Iranian premier who on Saturday registered to stand for the presidency, is remembered for his efficient handling of the economy during the brutal eight year war with Saddam Hussein in the 1980s.

A soft-spoken man, who calls himself a "reformist who refers to the principles" of the 1979 revolution that toppled the US-backed shah, Mousavi is seeking a comeback after nearly two decades of political oblivion.

He was prime minister under the presidency of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the current supreme leader of Iran, and enjoyed the full support of the founder of the Islamic republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

He was also the last prime minister of Iran as the post was scrapped by an amendment to the constitution in 1989.

Since then, Mousavi has been absent from the top echelons of national politics and has kept away from the media spotlight.

He is, however, a member of the Expendiency Council, Iran's top legislative arbitration body and served as a presidential adviser from 1989 to 2005. He is also head of Iran's Art Academy, set up to safeguard the Islamic republic's national heritage.

Mousavi was born on September 29, 1941 in the town of Khameneh, hometown of the ancestors of supreme leader Khamenei.

Although the two are unrelated, they were among the founders of Islamic Republic, the now defunct party set up during the early years of the 1979 revolution.

Mousavi was also the man behind publication of the party's newspaper, Jomhuri Eslami.

Iranians widely remember him as the man who steered the country's economy when the nation was engaged in a raging conflict with Saddam's forces between 1980 and 1988 at a time when the revolution itself was at an infant stage.

At least a million people are believed to have died during the conflict which Iranians call the "Sacred Defence." "He has a good record as a prime minister," said retired schoolteacher Shahbad from the northern city of Gorgan during one of Mousavi's provincial tours.

"He handled the economy very well during the Sacred Defence. It was a great achievement." Known for his efficient wartime distribution of food through a strict rationing system, supporters believe he can fix the deteriorating economy and galloping inflation.

Hardline incumbent Mahmoud Ahamdinejad, who announced on Friday that he would seek a second four-year term in the June 12 poll, has overseen a sharp increase in public spending which critics have derided as populist and inflationary.

The annual inflation rate is currently hovering around 25 percent, while unemployment stands at some 12 percent.

Ahmadinejad has also been accused of being too quick to dismiss top officials, something Mousavi has pledged not to do.

The former prime minister has also promised that if elected he will seek to change the "extremist" image that Iran has earned abroad during Ahmadinejad's presidency and has not ruled out the possiblity of negotiating with US President Barack Obama.

In his bid for the presidency, Mousavi has the key support of reformist former president Mohammad Khatami who won sympathy in the West for his advocacy of a "dialogue of civilisations" during his eight years in office to 2005.

But Mousavi has also warned that if elected he will not go back on the tough position on Iran's nuclear programme taken by Ahmadinejad.

"Having nuclear technology for peaceful purposes without being a threat to the world is our strategic objective," he told a press conference last month.

"I do not think any government will dare to take a step back in this regard, since people will question the decision. Given the long-term interest, we are obliged not to back down on this or other similar issues."