Afghan ex-finance minister Ghani to run for president

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Former finance minister Ashraf Ghani on Monday launched his bid to become the next president of Afghanistan, kickstarting the 2014 election race as the first big name to declare his candidacy.

Ghani, who is also a former World Bank academic, confirmed he would run in the April poll to succeed Hamid Karzai as the NATO-led military coalition withdraws and officials seek a peace deal with the Taliban militants.

"(I) plan to contest in the upcoming presidential elections," Ghani said on his Twitter account, in a message that was verified by a senior official working in his office.

Clearing the way for his shot at power, Ghani resigned as chairman of the Transition Coordination Committee (TCC), which oversees Afghanistan's return to full sovereignty after the US-led ousting of the Taliban regime in 2001.

Ghani came a distant fourth in the 2009 presidential election, collecting less than three percent of the vote, but has used his role at the TCC to travel extensively around all parts of Afghanistan and raise his profile.

An acerbic character known for his quick temper, Ghani spent time at Columbia, Berkeley and Johns Hopkins universities in the US before joining the World Bank and then serving as Afghan finance minister from 2002-2004.

This year, he came second in a "world thinkers" poll by Prospect magazine, which described him as one of the "few academics (who) get the chance to put their ideas into practice".

Ghani, born in 1949 in Logar province near Kabul, may again struggle to secure enough popular support needed for victory at the ballot box.

He is a Pashtun, the country's largest ethnic group, but is not a tribal leader and has a limited vote base.