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117 Iranian lawmakers resign

Iranian President Mohammad Khatami reportedly was in the hospital with back pain Saturday.
Iranian President Mohammad Khatami reportedly was in the hospital with back pain Saturday.

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TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) -- Ahead of elections later this month, 117 reformist lawmakers resigned from Iran's parliament Sunday, protesting the conservative Guardian Council election commission's disqualification of reform candidates.

Parliament speaker Mehdi Karroubi made a scathing speech against members of the council, saying they were trying to usurp the power of the people by deciding which candidates can run for parliament on February 20.

Karroubi said the GC's role is to oversee elections, not decide who should run for office.

He urged Iran's hard-line Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to intervene.

Next week, Karroubi said each of the lawmakers will address parliament, explaining why he has resigned. Then, the legislature will vote on whether to accept or reject the resignations. The process is expected to take about a week.

On Friday, the GC reversed its ban on about one-third of the candidates it had initially barred, the council said.

Overall, hundreds of potential reform candidates were summarily disqualified by the conservative GC. Reformers hold a significant majority.

Iran's Interior Minister Seyed Abdolvahed Mousavi Lari said Saturday that "the only decision made at the end of talks (with the GC) was to increase the number of disqualified (members of parliament) from 83 to 87," the state run news agency, IRNA, reported.

"Naturally, holding election would be out of question," Lari said.

Amid the impasse, Iran's moderate President Mohammed Khatami was hospitalized Saturday with a bad back, but appeared on Iranian television Sunday at an inauguration ceremony. (President hospitalized)

-- Journalist Shirzad Bozorgmehr contributed to this report

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