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Iran Council to review candidates

From CNN Correspondent Kasra Naji

Khatami is being urged to postpone the February 20 election.

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Ali Khamenei
Mohammed Khatami

TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) -- After disqualifying thousands of reformist candidates, Iran's Guardian Council will reconsider several candidates given approval to run for office by Iran's intelligence ministry, a government spokesman said.

The disqualifications sparked the latest political impasse between Iran's reformists, supported by President Mohammed Khatami, and hardliners backed by spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Khamenei intervened and ordered a review of the candidates in an effort to solve the political stalemate, according to the government.

As part of a compromise with hardliners, Khatami had Iran's intelligence ministry review the disqualified candidates to determine who should be allowed to run for office.

"The government still hopes that the general elections will be held as scheduled on February 20," government spokesman Abdullah Ramazanzadeh said shortly after Khatami met with his Cabinet Wednesday.

The intelligence ministry will present its list to the Guardian Council, although it is not clear if the hardline panel will accept the proposed candidates. The council will meet Thursday night, a government spokesman said.

Reformist leaders met Tuesday with Khatami and urged him to postpone the election, saying the disqualifications made a fair vote unlikely.

Khamenei, speaking to his supporters Wednesday, said elections "must be held as scheduled, not a day later."

Lawmakers have staged a sit-in at Tehran's parliament building for the past 25 days to protest the disqualification of reformist candidates by the Guardian Council, a panel dominated by the Islamic republic's conservative clergy.

Lawmakers argue that even if the disqualified candidates were reinstated immediately, they would not have enough time to campaign. Members of parliament also asked Khatami not to bow to pressure to hold elections in these circumstances.

The political crisis, the worst in many years, was set to deepen Wednesday, when Tehran University students planned to hold a rally in support of the protesting lawmakers. There are reports that Iran's Interior Ministry, which issues permits for holding public rallies, has refused to allow the protest to go ahead.

Protesting lawmakers have called on the students to voice their grievances only through legal channels.

The reformist Islamic Iran Participation Front, led by Khatami's brother, Mohammad Reza Khatami, announced Monday it would withdraw from the elections. Many members of that party were among 125 members of parliament who submitted their resignations Sunday to protest the disqualifications.

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