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Iran's Khamenei Orders Reconsideration of Decision to Ban Election Candidates

Iran's supreme leader has ordered the hard-line conservative Guardian Council to reconsider its decision to ban thousands of candidates from next month's parliamentary elections.

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is attempting to put an end to a political crisis that erupted in Iran after thousands of mostly reformist parliamentary candidates were barred from running in next month's elections.

The supreme leader ordered the conservative constitutional watchdog Guardian Council to reconsider its decision to bar almost half of the 8,000 candidates seeking election in next month's vote.

Among the barred candidates are more than 80 current members of the parliament's 290 lawmakers.

According to Iran's state television, the supreme leader said those candidates should not have been barred from running unless there was adequate proof they are not qualified.

The Guardian Council is made up of 12 appointed hard-liners who have the authority to veto legislation approved by parliament and to screen all candidates for public office.

A political science professor at Cairo University and expert on Iran, Pakinam el-Shakarwy, says that while the Iranian government has experienced political turmoil in the past, this time it is serious. Ms. El-Shakarwy says she thinks the Guardian Council disqualified the candidates in an effort to test political waters.

"I think it is kind of testing, testing how will be the response of the moderates," she said. "Are they going to go too far or, as in all the previous crisis, will it be contained in a way that keeps the status quo as it is with the conservatives controlling some key institutions without any interference from the moderates? I think it is not a good time regarding the regional and international circumstances. I think it was not the right decision."

Iran President Mohammad Khatami tried and failed to convince dozens of members of parliament to end their four-day sit-in protest at parliament. Mr. Khatami said he thought negotiations could lead to a reversal of the Guardian Council's decision.

But Mr. Khatami's younger brother, Mohammad Reza Khatami, said the protest would continue because there was no guarantee that the candidates would be reinstated. The younger brother is the deputy speaker of parliament and one of the candidates who was disqualified.