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Conservatives Take Early Lead in Iranian Parliamentary Elections


Unofficial results in Iran show conservatives have taken an early lead in vote counting from Friday's parliamentary election.

Interior Minister Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi says conservative candidates have won more than 71 percent of the seats counted so far.

The election was expected to keep power in the hands of Iran's conservative faction, with two rival conservative groups battling for the 290 parliamentary seats.

Iran's Guardian Council banned many reformists from running, and the main reformist coalition fielded only about 100 candidates out of 4,500 overall. But a coalition spokesman says the election was a success, saying reformists have won 34 seats outright and expect to win another 15 in run-off voting.

The United States said the election was rigged because voters were not able to cast ballots for a full range of candidates.

Of the two rival conservative groups, one is more closely linked to hard-line Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The other one wants Iran to take a more practical approach to dealing with the West on its controversial nuclear program and could challenge Mr. Ahmadinejad on his handling of the economy. The economy has suffered from high inflation and unemployment, along with fuel shortages.

Government officials say more than 65 percent of Iran's 44 million eligible voters cast ballots in the elections. Officials say it could be several days before the final vote totals are announced.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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