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Iran's Guardian Council Begins Reviewing Candidate Blacklist - 2004-01-18

Iran's powerful Guardian Council says it has started a case-by-case review of candidates it has barred from running in upcoming parliamentary elections.

Spokesman Ebrahim Azizi told reporters in Tehran Sunday that the council began its work on Saturday, complying with an order from Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The council was ordered to conduct the review following strong protests from Iranian parliament members, governors and government officials.

Last week, the unelected council barred more than a third of the 8,200 candidates hoping to run in the February elections. Most of the disqualified candidates are reformists, including 80 current members of parliament.

Conservative hard-liners control the council, which screens all laws and candidates to ensure they comply with the principles of Iran's Islamic Republic.

On Saturday, the man in charge of the February elections, Deputy Interior Minister Morteza Mobalagh, said he would step down unless the candidates barred from the ballot are reinstated.

Iran's 27 provincial governors have also threatened to resign, while some 80 lawmakers have been holding a sit-in at the Iranian parliament for eight days.

Despite the protests, the Guardian Council spokesman said today that council members would not respond to propaganda or pressure. He said candidates whose behavior suggests they do not respect Islam would remain disqualified.

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