A look at Iran's presidential candidates

A look at the candidates in Friday's presidential election in Iran:


PRESIDENT MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD — Before his surprise presidential win in 2005, Ahmadinejad, 53, was mayor of Tehran and had served in provincial political roles. He holds a doctorate in civil engineering and traffic planning.

The son of a blacksmith, Ahmadinejad's family moved from north-central Iran to Tehran when he was an infant. Some reports say Ahmadinejad was involved in the 444-day occupation of the U.S. Embassy following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, but any role remains unclear.

During his run for the presidency four years ago, Ahmadinejad crafted a populist role, promising to share Iran's oil revenues and devote more resources to projects in Iran's poor provinces. But Iran's chronic economic problems — compounded by international sanctions — have become a target for opponents in the current race.

Ahmadinejad has become a lightning rod for international criticism for comments that include questioning the extent of the Holocaust and calling for Israel to be "wiped off the map." He has strongly defended Iran's right to uranium enrichment as part of its nuclear program, deepening the impasse with Western nations that fear Iran could be seeking nuclear weapons. Iran says it only seeks peaceful reactors for electricity.


MIR HOSSEIN MOUSAVI served as Iran's last prime minister from 1981 to 1989, when the post was eliminated. Before entering the presidential race, he was widely identified with his leadership role during the hardships and bloodshed of the 1980-88 war with Iraq.

Some critics also question the depth of his pro-reform platform, noting that he was part of the early power structure after the Islamic Revolution that clamped down on dissent and forced ultraconservative rules such as banning music. But Mousavi, 67, later had a central role in the move toward greater political and social freedoms that began with the election of President Mohammad Khatami in 1997.

Mousavi currently serves as president of the Iranian Academy of Arts and is an amateur artist. He also is a member of the Expediency Council, which mediates disputes between parliament and the ruling clerics.

A native of northeastern Iran, Mousavi studied architecture in Tehran and was editor for the official newspaper after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. He is married to Zahra Rahnavard, a former chancellor of Al-Zahra University in Tehran until being forced out by conservatives in 2006. Both Mousavi and Rahnavard served as advisers to Khatami.


MAHDI KARROUBI is the only cleric in the race. He twice served as parliament speaker, most recently from 2000-4, and ran for president in 2005. Karroubi, 72, is considered a moderate and has criticized the ruling establishment, but also is identified for his battles against reformists in parliament. A native of Iran's western Lorestan region, Karroubi studied theology in Tehran and the seminary city of Qom.


MOHSEN REZAEI served as commander of the powerful Revolutionary Guard from 1981-97. He currently is secretary of the Expediency Council and teaches economics at Imam Hossein University. Rezaei, 55, is among six Iranians and one Lebanese wanted by Interpol in connection with a 1994 bombing of a Jewish cultural center in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which killed 85 people.

A black panther cub is seen in the grass at the Tierpark zoo in Berlin. AP Photo/Maya Hitij