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Iran Today: Is The Quest For A Unity Candidate Over?

The Four Faces Of Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf

As the Presidential election looms closer, signs are that the 2+1 Coalition --- established in December to choose a "consensus" candidate behind whom Principlists and conservatives could rally --- is effectively finished.

None of the three members of the coalition --- senior aide to the Supreme Leader Ali Akbar Velayati, Tehran Mayor Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf and MP Gholam-Ali Haddad Adel --- have indicated that they are willing to step down in favor of another.

On Sunday, Haddad-Adel told reporters that he would not step down from the Presidential race because he saw "no reason" to do so.

Meanwhile, principlist factions are beginning to declare support for one or other of the three Coalition members.

Seyyed Kamal Sajjadi, spokesman for the Followers of the Imam and Leadership Front, went so far as to say the 2+1 Coalition is finished and that the faction is officially throwing its support behind Velayati.

Sajjadi also slammed Saeed Jalili --- the fourth Principlist candidate, outside of the 2+1 Coalition --- as too inexperienced to be President. Jalili's sudden entry into the Presidential race, and his strong starting position threatened to split the Principlist vote further.

Meanwhile, a second member of the Coalition, Qalibaf, has attracted support from a group of 150 MPs --- at least according to his campaign spokesman --- Mehr reports.

A poll published Monday by the Young Journalists Club, via Mosalas Online, puts Qalibaf in the lead, ahead of Velayati and Rezaei --- though the accuracy of the poll is impossible to verify.

Jalili Swears On Quran To Sacrifice Life For Supreme Leader

Presidential candidate Saeed Jalili swears on a Quran that he will sacrifice his life for the Supreme Leader at the request of a student during a rally at Tehran University.

The student asks Jalili if he is ready to swear on the Quran, and he replies: "Enshallah, I am".

After Jalili takes the Quran, the crowd chants his name.

Rouhani Gives Live Speech On State TV: We're Not After A Bomb

In his speech on State TV on Monday, moderate Presidential candidate Hassan Rohani said that he planned to use experts in his "government of hope and prudence" if elected --- a promise made by other candidates as well, notably Saeed Jalili and Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf/

Rouhani's comments indicate that he is attempting to pitch himself as a centrist candidate with a broad appeal. Perhaps with a nod at earlier comments on Monday by political commentator Sadeq Zibakalam, who said that reformist voters must back Rouhani or face a Jalili presidency, Rouhani said that he is able to work with all parties, and that he only opposed extremism.

With regard to Iran's nuclear program, Rouhani said Iran needed to clarify its position but stressed that Tehran was not seeking a nuclear weapon, and rather was developing nuclear technology for national development.

Referring to the ongoing battle between himself and his rival Saeed Jalili, Rouhani defended his term as nuclear negotiator:

Rouhani also discussed regional cooperation and national security, noting that he planned to examine specific foreign policy issues to "identify the countries with whom Iran could work".

Rouhani said that public diplomacy --- even with the United States --- was important for Iran, across issues like culture, sports and religion.

The moderate candidate mentioned the Syria question:

Rouhani Slams Bagheri, Jalili

Moderate Presidential candidate Hassan Rouhani sharply criticized his rival Saeed Jalili's campaign manager, nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri on Monday, over the ongoing row over claims by the Jalili camp that Rouhani made concessions during his tenure as nuclear negotiator.

Conservative news outlet Asr Iran published Rouhani's response to Bagheri's claims, and Rouhani's campaign team also noted them on his Twitter account.

Rouhani slammed Bagheri for using the "unfounded allegations" against him for capital in Jalili's election campaign, but suggested that Bagheri read his book, "National Security And Nuclear Diplomacy".

The moderate candidate also accused Bagheri of making Iran an international laughing stock when he submitted a two-page document to theP5+1 in 2008 that was "full of errors".

Zibakalam: People Should Accept Rouhani As Consensus Candidate, Or Resign Themselves To Jalili

Outspoken Tehran University professor and political analyst Sadegh Zibakalam has said that Reformists should accept that since the Principlists hold power, they should choose a conservative candidate who is closest to reformist ideas and who has the power to change.

Zibakalam said that previously this candidate could have been Ali Akbar Nategh-Nouri but since he is not running in the current election, and since former President Hashemi Rafsanjani was disqualified, the consensus candidate should be Hassan Rouhani.

Rafsanjani and Khatami should back Rouhani, he added, since the current political scene is dominated by the principlists and there is no space for reformists; and that reformist candidate Mohammad-Reza Aref should consider withdrawing from the race.

Rights Groups Slam Decision To Retain Stoning In Penal Code

Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Monday slammed a decision by Iran's judiciary to retain stoning as a penalty for adultery.

The Guardian Council finished updating the draft penal code in late April, and states that “if the possibility of carrying out the (stoning) verdict does not exist,” the judge may order another form of execution pending final approval by the judiciary chief. However, the new legislation does not remove stoning as an option for judges.

HRW noted Monday that since 1980 there have been at least 70 people executed by stoning. By retaining this clause in the penal code, HRW's Sarah Leah Whitson accused Iran of proving that it "preside[s] over a criminal justice system based on fear, torture and injustice."

According to Whitson, while Iranian officials have pointed to the proposed changes as addressing the concerns of the international community, the new penal code "speaks volumes when a main issue among Iranian officials and jurists is whether people convicted of the ‘crime’ of adultery should be stoned to death or hanged.”

Presidential Election Watch: Jalili Courts Minority Vote

Presidential candidate Saeed Jalili announced a campaign trip to Iran's Sunni-dominated province Sistan and Baluchestan on Tuesday.

Presidential Election Watch: Seyyed Mohammad Gharazi Says US "Openly Forcing Iran To Build Nuke"

Seyyed Mohammad Gharazi, independent Presidential candidate and former Minister of Petroleum under then-prime minister Mousavi , has spoken about his policies on Iran's relations with the US, Iran's nuclear program and foreign policy issues.

In an interview with the IRDiplomacy website --- close to Seyyed Mohammad Sadegh Kharrazi, Iran's former ambassador to France and the United Nations --- Gharazi said that he would not conduct negotiations with Washington "behind closed doors".

The big satire of today’s history is that, by repeating its claim that Iran intends to build an atomic bomb, the US is openly forcing Iran to build an atomic bomb. With its behavior, the US tells the people of Iran that if you want to get rid of us, you must build an atomic bomb. But we will never fall in this trap.

Presidential Election Watch: Aref Edition

Aref: I Won't Form Coalition

Reformist candidate Mohammad-Reza Aref has denied rumors that he intends to form a coalition with moderate candidate Hassan Rouhani ahead of the June 14 election.

Aref told Mehr News that he would remain in the race until the end.

Aref Goes To The Bazaar

Reformist candidate Mohammad Reza Aref spent Sunday in the Tehran bazaar --- getting there by riding the metro --- where he spoke with Iranians.

Aref --- like Mohsen Rezaei --- has taken his campaigning to the streets, to show that he is a man of the people who is interested in the views of ordinary people.

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