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Iranian President's Rivals Increase Parliamentary Election Lead

A woman from the Iranian city of Qom casts her vote in parliamentary elections on March 2 as a policeman stands guard.
Conservative rivals of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad appear to have extended their lead in Iran's parliamentary election.

With 90 percent of ballot boxes counted, loyalists of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei are expected to occupy more than three-quarters of the 290 seats in parliament, according to unofficial estimates.

The election on March 2 was largely shunned by reformists, whose leaders, Mirhossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi, have been under house arrest for more than a year.

The outcome of the vote will have no major impact on Iran's foreign policy, including its nuclear dispute with the West.

But the widespread defeat of his supporters is likely to weaken Ahmadinejad in the remaining 16 months of his presidency.

Final election results are expected by March 5.

With reporting by Reuters and dpa