TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's President Hassan Rouhani registered Friday to run in the upcoming presidential elections in May, saying he will continue to preserve a landmark nuclear deal that his country reached with world powers in 2015.
Associated Press journalists watched as Rouhani, 68, registered on the fourth day of the allocated period which ends on Saturday evening. In 2013, he had registered on the first day.
The upcoming vote will be seen, among other things, as a referendum on the nuclear agreement with world powers, under which Iran agreed to curb its uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions.
Running on the platform "More freedom and peace" Rouhani said, "Freedom should be expanded in both scope and strength in this country. Our universities and our youth should feel more lively and delighted."
Rouhani vowed to remain loyal to the nuclear deal, and urged all Iranians to vote.
"From today on preserving the nuclear deal will be one of the most important domestic, political and economic issues for the Iranian nation," said Rouhani.
Rouhani portrayed the deal as a newborn baby and hinted that his hard-line opponents were not fit to protect it, "Those who several times attempted to kill the child cannot be a good caretaker for the child."
He said he would continue his past promise to "salvage the economy" and "engage constructively" with the world.
"The Iranian nation will not stop half way, and will continue down its path. We'll not go back halfway. We'll continue down our path until the end," Rouhani said.
Rouhani also mentioned the giant joint gas field, the North Field, Iran will be developing with Qatar.
Earlier on Wednesday former hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his close ally Hamid Baghaei also filed to run for the presidency.
Also on Friday Ebrahim Raisi, a hard-line cleric close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who had earlier announced plans to run promising to fight poverty and corruption, registered to run in the presidential elections.
Iranian hardliners had widely hope Raisi would challenge incumbent President Hassan Rouhani.
Raisi in his first remarks after registering praised the country's democracy and the necessity of rule of law during the elections and afterward.
Raisi, 56, a professor of Islamic law, has served in the country's judiciary for decades. He is also a member of Assembly of Experts, an all-cleric body that will rule on the successor for the Supreme Leader. Raisi is also prosecutor of the Special Cleric Court, which deals with the offenses of clerics.
Earlier this month Ebrahim Raisi announced his readiness in a statement in which he said the country is suffering from "structural chronic illness and incorrect managerial traditions."
In 2016, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appointed Raisi as head of the Imam Reza charity foundation, which owns a massive business conglomerate and endowments in Iran.
Both Rouhani and Raisi on Friday avoided raising controversial issues, acquiescing to a longstanding demand by Khamenei who had urged a non-polarized election.
Registration will remain open until Saturday, and any Iranian national can apply. The applicants will then be vetted by the Guardian Council, a clerical body that will announce a final list of candidates by April 27. The council normally does not approve dissidents or women.
The nuclear deal was engineered by the Rouhani administration and went into effect in 2016. Iran has since resumed selling oil and signed deals worth billions of dollars to replace its aging commercial airline inventory.
Critics of the deal, however, complain that economic benefits have yet to trickle down to average Iranians.