Monday, May 23, 2005

Iran's Khamenei calls for review of election field

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Monday urged a hardline watchdog to reinstate two reformists barred from the June 17 presidential race after the largest pro-reform party said it would boycott the vote.

The surprise move by Khamenei, who has the last word in all state matters but rarely intervenes openly in political affairs, could offer reformists a lifeline to retain the presidency held by pro-reform cleric Mohammad Khatami since 1997.

It may also damage the chances of front-runner Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a moderate conservative whose message of detente with the West and economic liberalisation appeals to reformist supporters.

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