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Tue 19 Feb 2008 12:18 PM

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Iran reinstates disqualified candidates

Islamic state scraps disqualification of 251 hopefuls after strict vetting causes uproar.

Iran on Tuesday announced it reinstated 251 more candidates disqualified from parliamentary elections, bringing to over 831 the number of hopefuls reinstated after strict initial vetting caused uproar.

The Guardians Council, the hardline body which has the final say on the vetting, has already allowed some 580 candidates who were originally not allowed to stand to take part in the March 14 election.

Council spokesman Abbasali Kadkhodaei said that in addition, "251 of the candidates for the eighth parliament (since the Islamic revolution) have been reinstated," according to the IRNA news agency.

"These were the people who either had not qualified or their qualifications were not confirmed," he added.

He said those reinstated include both reformists and conservatives but media have said reformists are the main beneficiaries, in a possible boost to their chances of having an impact on the vote.

Those reinstated had been disqualified in the first stage of the vetting process by either interior ministry executive committees or the Guardians Council supervisory committee.

Prominent conservative and reformist figures had complained bitterly about the number of original disqualifications, with reformist former president Mohammad Khatami labelling the move a "catastrophe."

Reformists had been hoping to challenge the current conservative dominance of parliament, but following the initial set of disqualifications they said they could only compete for 10% of the 290 seats.

Several reformists have said that even with the reinstatements their chances are poor as the candidates now have very little time left to gain momentum for their campaigns.

To pass the vetting process, candidates must meet criteria including showing sufficient loyalty to Iran's Islamic system and the system of clerical leadership enshrined by revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

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