PROFILE: Moussavi - Comeback of the crisis-manager

Moussavi - Comeback of the crisis-managerTehran  - Iranian former prime minister Mir-Hossein Moussavi has been away from the political scene for two decades, but now the pragmatic technocrat is back to challenge Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the June 12 presidential election.

Former president Mohammad Khatami threw his support behind Moussavi on Monday after quitting the race to avoid splitting the vote between two candidates with similar platforms.

Moussavi, born in 1941 in Khameneh, north-eastern Iran, started his political career as foreign minister in 1980, the same year that the Iran-Iraq war broke out.

In 1981, he was appointed prime minister and took care of the executive affairs at a time when the country was internationally isolated and the West and the Arab world were on the side of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in the war.

Moussavi overcame the crisis years with a strict rationalization programme and a coupon-system for food and many other articles. Since then he has been branded as a crisis manager due to his successful management during the eight-year war against Iraq (1980-1988).

In August 1989, the Iranian constitution was amended - scrapping the prime minister job and making the president the head of executive power and number two after the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who in line with the constitution has the final say on all state affairs.

Following the constitutional amendment, Moussavi, an architect, withdrew from politics and focused his work on architecture at the academic level.

He served as an advisor during Mohammad Khatami's presidential tenure (1997-2005), but the job was more of a formality without any direct involvement in political affairs.

Moussavi's political comeback came as a surprise for all observers as it was expected he would only be a senior member of the Khatami campaign, but last week he suddenly announced his own presidential candidacy.

Khatami responded Monday by withdrawing from the race to avoid spliting the vote and called on his supporters to back Moussavi.

Although he opposes the policies of Ahmadinejad, Moussavi is ideologically seen as on the same political frequency as the current president. He is loyal to the Islamic system, anti-American and has a leftist bent on economic issues.

But due to his close cooperation with Khatami in recent years, Moussavi is classified as more moderate as Ahmadinejad and also more open to reforms.

Observers say that he does not have the charisma of Khatami but instead is seen as having more know-how for managing Iran's current economic crisis, the prime concern of voters ahead of the election. (dpa)

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