Ex-Iranian leader Ahmadinejad to participate in presidential poll

Khamenei's "advice was not a ban", he told AFP at the interior ministry where registration was taking place.

In a move to widen Mr Ahmadinejad's support, his senior aide Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie in May sent a conciliatory letter to Mr Ahmadinejad's predecessor as president, Mohammad Khatami, seen as the father of Iran's reform movement.

Ahmadinejad made the comments at a Wednesday news conference after stunning election officials by registering.

"It was an organized mutiny against Iran's ruling system", said Soroush Farhadian, who backs reformists.

President Hassan Rowhani accused Ahmadinejad of causing serious damage to the country during his eight-year tenure from 2005 to 2013. Under Iranian law, he is eligible to run again after four years out of office, but he remains a polarising figure, even among fellow hardliners.

Corruption allegations surrounded Ahmadinejad's presidency and two of his former vice-presidents were jailed, including Baghaei.

During Ahmadinejad's administration, Iran faced heavy worldwide sanctions against for its nuclear program, which Western countries said aimed to develop weapons. The landmark deal gave Iran relief from worldwide sanctions in exchange for greater restrictions on its nuclear energy initiatives.

Ahmadinejad was involved in a disputed reelection campaign in 2009 that resulted in months of widespread unrest, with thousands of people detained and dozens killed.

Internationally, he is more known for repeatedly questioning the scale of the Holocaust, predicting Israel's demise and expanding Iran's nuclear programme. Their candidacies are subject to the approval of the Guardian Council, a powerful body in charge of vetting all applicants.

His decision to run will upend an election many believed would be won by Mr Rouhani. "I'll be serving Mr Baghaei with all my power".

A total of 126 candidates, including six women, have registered their names to run in the May 19 polls.

Registration will remain open until Saturday, and any Iranian national can apply. The council normally does not approve dissidents or women for the formal candidate list. During that time, the Assembly of Experts chose Seyyed Ali Khamenei, the sitting president, to replace him, motivated by the knowledge that he was a particular favourite of the deceased Khomeini. Iran agreed to limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of some economic sanctions. Airplane manufacturers Airbus and Boeing Co. have struck billion-dollar deals.

Mr Rouhani and his allies have criticisedMr Ahmadinejad's free-spending policies for fuelling inflation and accuse him of wasting Iran's oil revenues.

  • Jon Douglas