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Iran's Guardians Council Reinstates One-Third Of Banned Candidates

Tehran, 30 January 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Iran's Guardians Council, an unelected oversight body, said today it has dropped bans on about one-third -- or more than 1,160 -- of the parliament candidates it had earlier banned from the elections.

The Guardians Council, whose members are appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, also rejected the Iranian Interior Minister's demand for a delay in the 20 February elections.

The council originally banned nearly half of 8,200 prospective candidates for parliamentary seats -- most of them reformers, liberals, or members of the opposition. This set off protests in parliament and threats to resign by reformist lawmakers and government officials.

One of the protesters, reformist lawmaker Hossein Loghmanian, says the reformists will not back down: "The people and the MPs are resisting. As one of them, I can tell you it's not possible that we will back off. The rights of the people are the most important thing for us. We cannot betray the people; we will defend the rights of the people as much as we can."

Many of Iran's provincial governors -- who are appointed by the country's reformist president, Mohammad Khatami -- said earlier that the mass disqualifications made free and fair elections impossible.

For more on this story, see Iran: Interior Ministry Wants Elections Delayed To Resolve Crisis