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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

SLUG: 2-312201 Iran / Elections (L O)









INTRO: A member of Iran's conservative Guardian Council, which barred thousands of mostly reformist candidates from next month's parliamentary elections, has promised the council will ease up on the candidates when it reviews its decisions. Kerry Sheridan has details from V-O-A's Middle East bureau in Cairo.

TEXT: The secretary of the Guardian Council, Ahmad Jannati, told worshippers during Friday prayers in Tehran that the council will be lenient and avoid bias in its review of election hopefuls.

Mr. Jannati promised that the Guardian Council will follow the order given by Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to complete a thorough review of the blacklisted candidates. He also insisted that the Guardian Council's review process is calculated, legal and accurate.

Iran fell into a political crisis two weeks ago when the Guardian Council, a hard-line group dominated by Islamic clerics, disqualified nearly half of the candidates who planned to run in the country's February 20th election. More than 80 of those banned are current members of parliament.

The decision drew a wave of resignation threats from top government officials.

Reformists believe the move by the Guardian Council, which has the power to veto legislation and screen all candidates for public office, was an attempt to make sure liberals do not continue to hold the majority of seats in Iran's parliament.

The Guardian Council says some 250 to 300 candidates have been reinstated since the group began its review process. More candidates are expected to be approved in the coming days.

During his sermon, Mr. Jannati also criticized the United States and the European Union for urging free and fair elections in Iran, saying that those nations have an old colonial approach.

He said the election matter is an internal issue in Iran and that other countries should not interfere. (SIGNED)


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