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Iran's Supreme Leader Defends Powerful Candidate-Vetting Body

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has said that the Guardians Council's authority in terms of supervising elections and vetting candidates should not change.

Khamenei reportedly made the comments in a February 26 meeting with members of the Assembly of Experts, the body that oversees the work of the supreme leader. The full text of Khamenei's comments was published on his website on March 10.

"There is no doubt that the Guardians Council has certain legal duties. Such duties that have been stipulated in the constitution -- such as supervision over the elections, vetting candidates, and the like -- should not change," it quotes Khamenei as saying.

In his comments, Khamenei mentions a plan reportedly reviewed by the Expediency Council, a key arbitrating body, that had been criticized by some conservatives, who said that the aim of the plan is to limit the responsibilities of the Guardians Council.

Hossein Shariatmadari, the chief editor of the ultraconservative "Kayhan" daily, said that the plan would eliminate the oversight body from the process of vetting election candidates.

Khamenei appears to have backed those who were critical of the plan.

"We should not compromise on the main issues of the state. There are, however, some secondary issues that can be addressed," he is quoted as saying. "I realized that a plan was being reviewed these days at the Expediency Council. It is clear, however, that the Expediency Council acts as an advisory body and its views will come to us, and we will present and implement what we believe should serve as the general policy of the state."

The Guardians Council, which oversees presidential and parliamentary elections in the Islamic republic, has been criticized by reformists and rights groups for acting on political and factional interests.

Following last year's disputed presidential election, the Guardians Council validated the vote after a partial recount and despite allegations of massive fraud by defeated presidential candidates Mir Hossein Musavi and Mehdi Karrubi.

The Guardians Council described the poll as the healthiest since the country's 1979 revolution, echoing the praise of Khamenei, who anointed Mahmud Ahmadinejad the winner within hours of polls closing.

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Persian Letters is a blog that offers a window into Iranian politics and society. Written primarily by Golnaz Esfandiari, Persian Letters brings you under-reported stories, insight and analysis, as well as guest Iranian bloggers -- from clerics, anarchists, feminists, Basij members, to bus drivers.