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Thu 7 Feb 2008 12:00 PM

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Iran's ex-president slams election procedures

Mohammad Khatami labels disqualification of reformist candidates a 'catastrophe'.

Iran's ex-president Mohammad Khatami labelled the mass disqualification of reformist candidates for parliamentary elections as a "catastrophe" which threatens the Islamic revolution, the press reported on Thursday.

"The disqualification by the executive committees is a catastrophe," he said in comments first reported by the ISNA news agency late Wednesday.

Executive committees working under the interior ministry last month disqualified over 2,000 mainly reformist candidates who were judged unsuitable to stand in the March 14 vote.

Reformist officials have said the disqualifications have wrecked their chances of challenging the current conservative dominance of parliament.

"To see that the credentials of good, Muslim people being rejected is a problem," lamented Khatami.

"But a big and more sorrowful problem is the trend (of disqualification) which I believe jeopardizes the revolution, the system and the wellbeing of society," he added.

Khatami's comments were his latest outspoken attack on the vetting process, which also destroyed reformist hopes in the last parliamentary election in 2004.

The former president, who was seen as the main inspiration behind the main reformist coalition, has in the last months broken over two years of silence to make bitter attacks on the government and the handling of elections.

"If the (disqualification) trend becomes permanent, it is very dangerous.

"We should, without narrow-mindedness, guard the true values of our revolution," he said in comments at a memorial service for the late reformist politician ex-deputy culture minister Ahmad Borghani.

In order to stand, candidates must meet a number of qualifications, one of which is sufficient loyalty to the Islamic revolution and the idea of clerical leadership enshrined by its founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini

The second phase of vetting is now being carried out by supervisory committees of the hardline Guardians Council, which conducts further investigations into the hopefuls approved by the interior ministry.

Khomeini's own grandson Ali Eshragi was disqualified at this stage after investigators asked neighbours questions over his personal life, it emerged on Wednesday.

The Guardians Council itself will give the final say on the candidates and is to publish the final list of those allowed to stand on March 4.

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