TEHRAN (AFP) — Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on Tuesday offered his implicit support to hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who is seeking a second term as the Islamic republic's president.
Iran will vote on June 12 to elect its new president.
"We should elect those who have popular support and who live in a simple and modest way... are pained by the pain of the people," Khamenei said in an apparent reference to Ahmadinejad who is known for his modest style of living.
"They should be close to people, be away from corruption. They should not be aristocrats themselves so to push people toward aristocracy," he added, speaking in Sanandaj in the western province of Kordestan.
"I think these are important features," Khamenei told a large gathering.
It was not the first time Khamenei has indicated his support for Ahmadinejad.
In August last year, Khamenei said in a speech to the government of Ahmadinejad that it must make "plans for the next five years".
Soon after becoming president in 2005, Ahmadinejad, son of a blacksmith, revealed he owned an old Peugeot car and had two bank accounts, one of which was empty and the other was used for his salary from his previous job as a university professor.
After taking office he ended the practice of receiving foreign dignitaries such as heads of state in the palace of the former shah in northern Tehran, welcoming them instead at the presidency office.
Khamenei on Tuesday blasted those who criticised Ahmadinejad's economic policies which analysts claim have stoked inflation and failed to reduce unemployment.
"One hears strange things... the dear candidates should be careful not to wreck public opinion and say untrue words (about one another)," said Khamenei, the country's top decision maker, especially on issues concerning national security.
"I know better and more than all of these gentlemen about the country's situation. I know that many things said as criticism about the country's situation and economy are untrue. They are wrong. God willing, it is wrong," he said.
Without naming anyone, he also warned that Iranian officials "must not have lavish" lifestyles.
Iran's presidency race has meanwhile become more intense, with Ahmadinejad facing opposition from former prime minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, ex-parliament speaker Mehdi Karroubi and former Revolutionary Guards head, Mohsen Rezai.
Ahmadinejad's present four year term has been marked with domestic economic woes and Iran's near collision with the international community over its controversial nuclear programme which the conservative leader has doggedly pursued.
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