AFP: Iran's embattled President Mohammad Khatami, isolated as one of the few reformists left in office, has admitted that he cannot wait until his second and final term in office ends next year. "I am counting the moments for my involvment in political affairs to be over," he was quoted as saying during a meeting Saturday with staff from the student news agency ISNA. AFP

TEHRAN - Iran's embattled President Mohammad Khatami, isolated as one of the few reformists left in office, has admitted that he cannot wait until his second and final term in office ends next year.

"I am counting the moments for my involvment in political affairs to be over," he was quoted as saying during a meeting Saturday with staff from the student news agency ISNA.

Rather than stay in politics, Khatami said he wanted to "enjoy my old age in a university atmosphere."

After a stint as the Islamic republic's culture minister and then in the national library, Khatami was elected president with landslide majorities in 1997 and again in 2001 after he reluctantly decided to stand for re-election.

But the mild-mannered, mid-ranking cleric's promise to shake-up the way Iran is run and liberalise the country has met with stiff opposition from hardliners who wield more power through the courts, political oversight bodies, the security forces and state media.

His image as a lame-duck leader was cemented after his allies in parliament were ousted in February's elections. Most or all reformists were barred from contesting those polls by the Guardians Council, a conservative-controlled legislative oversight body.

With Khatami also unable to stem a judicial crackdown on his leftist supporters in the press and universities, the president has also come in for heavy criticism. In recent months he has been barely visible on the political scene.

The Iranian constitutional bars any president from serving more than two successsive terms in office.

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