Mohammed Khatami trekker seg fra presidentvalgkampen av hensyn til den andre kandidaten som utfordrer Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Khatami mener at Mir Hossein Mousavi har større sjanser for å tiltrekke seg konservative som er fed up med Ahmadinejad.

Khatami has said previously that he and Mousavi would not compete against each other. On Sunday he acknowledged the advantages Mousavi holds in the race.

«Rest assured that Mousavi will recruit a remarkable percentage of votes from the other side. I have reports that some conservatives will not vote for me or (Ahmadinejad), but they would definitely vote for Mousavi,» Khatami told supporters.

But, on the other end of the spectrum, Mousavi could dampen enthusiasm among the reformists, whose electoral landslides in the late 1990s depended on massive turnout among the youth, excited at the prospect of change.

«This is a major setback for the reformist camp as a whole. Mousavi is not likely to bring back young Iranians who have been on the political sidelines,» said Mehrzad Boroujerdi, a political and religious researcher and Iran specialist at New York’s Syracuse University.

«Mousavi doesn’t speak the reformers’ language. He might try to soften his message to appeal to them, but he still echoes the past to many people,» he said.

Prominent political analyst, Saeed Leilaz, said Mousavi is the stronger candidate because he «can liquidate Ahmadinejad’s support base,» while Khatami «unifies hard-liners.» But, he added, Mousavi won’t be able to pull in the votes of all Khatami backers.

Adviser: Khatami to pull out of Iranian election