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Opponents of Iranian President Post Early Lead in Local Elections

Preliminary results from Iran's municipal elections show opponents of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have taken an early lead in key races.

Partial results released Monday show seven moderate conservative technocrats and four reformers winning seats on Tehran's 15-seat municipal council. One independent and three allies of the president are also leading.

Moderate conservatives are also doing well in elections for the powerful Assembly of Experts, a conservative body of clerics that monitors Iran's supreme leader and chooses his successor.

Early official results show former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, an opponent of Mr. Ahmadinejad, with a large lead in his race for a seat on the assembly.

Iran's biggest reformist party, the Islamic Iran Participation Front, said Mr. Ahmadinejad had suffered a "decisive defeat" because of what the party called the government's "authoritarian and inefficient methods."

Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah Yazdi, who is regarded as President Ahmadinejad's spiritual mentor, won an Assembly of Experts seat but with a much lower vote total.

Friday's election was the first since President Ahmadinejad defeated Mr. Rafsanjani in last year's presidential vote. Many Iranian political observers see the election as a major test of support for Mr. Ahmadinejad.

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