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Iranian Interior Ministry Criticizes Decision To Bar Opposition Candidates

Tehran, 12 January 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Iran's Interior Ministry says a decision by the conservative Guardians Council to prevent many reform candidates from standing in next month's parliamentary elections is "illegal."

A statement by the ministry, which is responsible for organizing elections, was carried by the Iranian student news agency, ISNA. The statement said the ministry would defend the rights of candidates.

The council, a nonelected 12-member body, has said it would bar thousands of reformist candidates, including 85 incumbent members of parliament from running in the elections.

Reformists have vowed to hold a demonstration and several began a sit-in protest.

President Mohammad Khatami urged supporters to react calmly to the council decision, but said he did not agree with it. He warned of a massive boycott of the elections if the council didn't reverse the decision.