TEHRAN, March 19 (UPI) -- Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami withdrew from the presidential contest to avoid saturation of Reformists, a former vice president said.
Khatami withdrew from the presidential contest in Iran earlier this week following a decision by former Prime Minister Mir-Hossein Mousavi to re-enter the race.
Former Iranian Vice President Mohsen Mehralizadeh told Iran's Mehr news agency that Khatami's decision was admirable, calling it a move respecting Reformist unity.
"I believe Khatami's withdrawal from the elections was a moral, noble and intelligent decision since he chose thoughtful competition over power struggle," he said.
Some observers to the Iranian political scene, however, note that Khatami may have faced pressure to step down. Khatami served as president from 1997 to 2005, ruling on a policy of liberalization.
Besides Mousavi, former Parliament Speaker Mehdi Karroubi plans to challenge incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on the Reformist ticket.
Mehralizadeh said, however, there was pressure from the Reformists on Karroubi to abandon his candidacy.
Iran is scheduled to hold presidential elections June 12.