Tehran mayor Qalibaf quits presidential race, backs Raisi: ISNA

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"However, Raisi is even a weaker candidate, he does not speak well, he is known for his ruthlessness in the 80s, he is inexperienced, and the middle-class Iranians are really afraid of him which pushes them to reluctantly vote for Rouhani", said Ghasseminejad.

A prominent conservative candidate has dropped out of Iran's presidential election to back a hardliner - in a bid to strengthen the fight to unseat President Hassan Rouhani by reducing the field to a two-man race.

Former president Mohammad Khatami, considered the spiritual leader of Iran's reformists, urged voters on Sunday (May 14) to re-elect President Hassan Rouhani and support his policy of seeking to end Iran's isolation from the rest of the world.

Hard-liner Ebrahim Raisi will gain votes from Qalibaf's endorsement, but it may not be enough to defeat Rouhani.

"I ask all my supporters in the country to support the success of our great brother Hojatoleslam Seyed Ebrahim Raisi", Qalibaf stated in a letter published in social media.

Rouhani alluded to this controversy during a campaign rally recently, saying: "The people of Iran will announce in this election that they don't accept those who only knew executions and prison for 38 years". The main battleground between the two factions is the selection of a successor for the Supreme Leader, in which the "reformers" have no chance given that their most prominent candidate, Hashemi Rafsanjani, a founder of the regime and former president, had a mysterious heart attack just few months ago.

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Most Iranians have yet to see the benefits of the nuclear deal.

Raisi, a cleric and former attorney general, serves as the head of the Imam Reza charity foundation, which manages a vast conglomerate of business and endowments in Iran.

Bahram Ghasemi made the remark in his weekly press conference on Monday, while addressing a question about the promise President Rouhani had made during the fiery final debate on Friday.

The nuclear deal between Iran and the six world powers ended a decadeslong crisis that removed sanctions on almost 80 million Iranians and potentially averted another military confrontation in the Middle East involving the United States.

The news Qalibaf was standing down broke as Raisi was delivering a speech in Shiraz, thrilling his supporters.

Internally, securing the nuclear deal and improving Iran-US relations are President Hasan Rouhani's two biggest achievements, which he hopes to use in a campaign to get reelected in elections on May 19. Rouhani added that tourism in 2013, before the deal lifted some sanctions, was less than that recorded in April this year. Raisi has been campaigning on that, proposing cash payments for the poor that proved popular in the past under Ahmadinejad. So no matter who becomes Iran's next president, they will try and keep this nuclear agreement.

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