Ali Akbar Velayati is widely considered as serious competition up against rival Iranian presidential candidate Said Jalili, whom many would say is the frontrunner in the race.
Velayati, a 64-year-old paediatrician by training, takes a different approach to Jalili on international and notably nuclear questions. He wants to pursue compromise, a position which he has amplified recently, to some general surprise, since that goes against the trend in the dominant conservative camp.
He was the conservative alliance’s candidate of choice in the 2005 presidentials, but he pulled out, making this race his first. He has substantial support from various Iranian clerics.
Velayati began his political career in the early 1980s, following the Islamic Revolution, when he was elected to parliament. Passed over for the job of prime minister under Khamenei’s presidency, he was appointed to the foreign affairs portfolio. He kept this after Rafsanjani was elected president in 1997.
Then he became international affairs advisor to Ali Khamenei, who had become Supreme Leader – also rubbing elbows with outgoing President Ahmadinejad, although lately he has criticised the latter in his approach.
Velayati is known for his strong conservatism, and in the past he would lash out at the United States and Israel. He compared George Bush Junior to Hitler.
Velayati chose not to run in 2005. This time, his campaign camp has been saying, he will stay the course against all rivals to the end.