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US slams Iran's disqualification of candidates

22 may 2013, 12:38
The United States on Tuesday condemned Iran's disqualification of hundreds of would-be presidential candidates, accusing the "unaccountable" clerical leadership of seeking to tighten its grip on power, AFP reports.

"It appears that Iran's unelected Guardian Council, which is unaccountable to the Iranian people, has disqualified hundreds of potential candidates based on vague criteria," State Department deputy spokesman Patrick Ventrell said.

"The Council narrowed the list of almost 700 potential candidates down to eight officials based solely on who the regime believes will represent its interests, rather than those of the Iranian people," he told AFP in an email.

"The lack of transparency makes it unlikely that the slate of candidates represents the will of the Iranian people, who should be given every opportunity to choose a president who best embodies their views."

Ventrell also said there were "troubling signs" that the government was moving to slow down or cut off Internet access in a bid to stifle free expression ahead of the June 14 election to replace Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The conservative-dominated Guardian Council, which claims to vet candidates based on their devotion to the Islamic Revolution, winnowed the candidate field from 686 down to eight, all close to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Rejected candidates include Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a moderate who served as president from 1989 to 1997, and Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, a controversial aid to Ahmadinejad, who is constitutionally banned from seeking a third term.

The disqualifications appeared to leave lead nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, a figure close to top decision-maker Khamenei, as the frontrunner.

Washington has had no diplomatic relations with Iran since the 1979 revolution and the seizure of the US embassy by Islamist students, who held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days.

The United States has led the way in imposing international sanctions on Iran over its controversial nuclear program, which the West believes is aimed at developing a nuclear weapon but which Tehran insists is entirely peaceful.

The United States also accuses Iran of being a "state sponsor of terrorism" because of its support for Hezbollah, Hamas and other regional militant groups.

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