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Iran Hard-Liners Call For Election Ban On Two Prominent Candidates

Iranian presidential candidates Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei (left) and Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani
Iranian media reports say hard-line lawmakers have petitioned authorities to bar two prominent contenders from next month's presidential election.

Iran's semi-official Fars news agency said on May 15 that around 100 lawmakers sent a petition to the Guardians Council, which vets potential candidates, to disqualify ex-President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, a close aide to President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.

The council has until May 21 to announce a shortlist of candidates that will contest the June 14 election.

The candidacy of Mashaei and Rafsanjani, a moderate conservative backed by reformists, presents a challenge to conservative front-runners loyal to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Ahmadinejad, constitutionally barred from running for office, has backed Mashaei despite disapproval from Khamenei.

Ultraconservatives have denounced Mashaei as part of a "deviant current" opposing Islamic rule.

Based on reporting by AP, Fars, and Mehr