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Iran's Ahmadinejad to leave politics, newspaper reports

By the CNN Wire Staff
June 18, 2012 -- Updated 0048 GMT (0848 HKT)
"Eight years are enough," Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is barred from running for a third term in a row
  • "Eight years is enough," he tells a German newspaper
  • He is on the losing end of a power struggle, outside observers say

Tehran, Iran (CNN) -- Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will leave politics when his second term comes to an end, and does not envision a Vladimir Putin-style return to office after sitting out for a term, a German newspaper reported Sunday.

"Eight years are enough," the controversial Iranian leader told Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.

He's barred by law from seeking a third consecutive term in 2013. Russian President Putin was forced out of office by a similar law, spent one term as prime minister, then returned to office this year.

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But Putin dominates his country's politics in a way that Ahmadinejad does not, observers say.

Ahmadinejad has been in a power struggle with Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and he's losing, according to experts.

"I think Ahmadinejad underestimated the power of Khamenei, and he overestimated his own power," Haleh Esfandiari, director of Middle Eastern studies at the Woodrow Wilson International Center, said last month.

"You can step on anybody's toes, but not on his toe," said Esfandiari, who was jailed for more than three months in 2007 during a visit to Iran.

She said Ahmadinejad may be left a "lame duck" after butting heads with Khamenei.

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Forces throughout the government have moved to check Ahmadinejad's efforts to replace top officials and have gone after the president's closest advisers, analyst Alireza Nader said.

"I think it's a symptom of the general dissatisfaction with President Ahmadinejad that his powers and movement are being curtailed by the various power centers in Iran," said Nader, an expert on Iranian politics at the RAND Corp., an American think tank.

CNN's Matt Smith and Shirzad Bozorgmehr contributed to this report.

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