AFP: The former head of Iran's hardline Revolutionary Guards, Mohsen Rezai, announced on Monday that he will stand in presidential elections scheduled for mid-2005. "People need candidates who are efficient as well as politically serious," Rezai told a news conference, adding that he had "clear plans for management and solving people's problems." AFP

TEHRAN - The former head of Iran's hardline Revolutionary Guards, Mohsen Rezai, announced on Monday that he will stand in presidential elections scheduled for mid-2005.

"People need candidates who are efficient as well as politically serious," Rezai told a news conference, adding that he had "clear plans for management and solving people's problems."

Rezai headed the Revolutionary Guards for some 16 years, from the early years of the revolution through the Iran-Iraq war to a stage where the force has become one of Iran's most powerful institutions.

He is currently the secretary of the Expediency Council, the regime's top political arbitration body.

While Rezai told reporters he was of a "revolutionary and radical nature", he pledged that if elected president he would "use competent people of both (conservative and reformist) camps in my cabinet".

Iran's current president, the reformist Mohammad Khatami, is nearing the end of his second consecutive term. The constitution bars presidents from serving more than two consecutive mandates.

The presidential elections are scheduled to take place in May 2005.

So far a number of prominent conservative figures have signalled their intention to stand, including former state media boss Ali Larijani and former foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati -- both of whom are also close aides to Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Influential former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, now the head of the Expediency Council, is also mulling a comeback as president but has yet to declare his intentions.

"I hope that the presence of prominent older revolutionaries is not an obstacle for serious competition with younger contenders," said the 50-year-old Rezai when asked what he thought of Rafsanjani -- seen as a pragmatic conservative -- standing in the polls.

No reformist figure has yet to step forward.

Presidential candidates are subject to approval by the Guardians Council, an unelected body controlled by hardliners that vets all legislation and those seeking to be parliament deputies and president.

Rezai was at the centre of a storm in 1998 when his son, Ahmad, defected to arch enemy the United States.