Iran presidential candidate vows to resist West

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, a candidate in next month’s presidential elections, vowed Friday he will pursue a policy of resistance against the West if elected.

Addressing his first campaign rally in Tehran, Saeed Jalili said his priority in foreign policy will be to expand Islam’s influence in the world and counter “arrogance,” a reference to the U.S.

Jalili is considered one of the most hard-line of the eight candidates approved by the Guardian Council, Iran’s election overseers, to run in the June 14 race.

He is believed to draw much of his support from the Basij, the paramilitary branch of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard. The candidate lost a leg in the 1980-88 war with Iraq, earning him the title “janbaz,” or sacrificing combatant.

Several prominent Basij figures and other hard-liners attended the rally. “Our living martyr, our winning card,” the crowd of about 3,000 chanted. Some were fasting as a sign of support for Jalili’s campaign.

The Guardian Council barred two top candidates from the race, dramatically increasing the chances of establishment-friendly candidates.

Centrist ex-president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, a protege of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, were disqualified. The barring of Rafsanjani dashed the hopes of reformist groups, which had faced a relentless crackdown since disputed 2009 election. Of eight candidates approved, six are conservatives and only two of them have pro-reform tendencies.

Jalili said he is seeking to revive the revolutionary policies of the 1979 Islamic revolution that brought clerics to power.

“We are seeking to dry up the roots of the Zionist regime, the capitalist and communist systems. Instead, we promote the Islamic system,” Jalili said, echoing policy statements made by the Islamic Republic’s late founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. “This discourse rejects domination. This is the discourse of the Islamic revolution.”

Jalili said compromise brings misery and devastation.

As Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, he has opposed compromise with the world powers over the country’s disputed nuclear program. The West accuses Iran of trying to develop weapons, a charge that Iran denies.

“Resistance is the only way for progress,” read a banner at the rally. His campaign headquarters has been nicknamed “Surge of the Poor.”

Jalili has received the backing of several conservatives who backed Ahmadinejad in his 2005 rise to power. Ahmadinejad lost conservative support in 2011 however when he was perceived to challenge Khomeini’s successor, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has final say on all matters of state in Iran. Jalili has cast himself as a die-hard Khamenei loyalist.

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