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Iranian Ministry Confirms Former President’s Election Lead --> The seat of Hashemi-Rafsanjani (left) on the Assembly of Experts seems secure (epa) December 17, 2006 -- Iran's Interior Ministry announced today that former President Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani has a comfortable lead in a closely watched election for a powerful clerical body.

Iranians went to the polls on December 15 to vote in municipal elections and to determine the shape of the Assembly of Experts, which has the power to appoint, supervise, and even dismiss the country’s supreme leader.

The ministry said that in the Assembly of Experts election, Hashemi-Rafsanjani had nearly twice the number of votes garnered by Ayatollah Mohammad Tagi Mesbah Yazdi, who is in sixth place.

The more moderate and pragmatic allies of Hashemi-Rafsanjani, one of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's main opponents, were battling for control of the assembly against ultraconservatives represented by Mesbah Yazdi.

The elections were seen as a test of the hard-line President Ahmadinejad’s popularity since his election victory in June 2005, and as indicator of the country’s future course.

The final results of the Assembly of Experts elections were to be announced later today.

(dpa, AFP)

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