Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Monday urged a hardline watchdog to reinstate two reformists barred from the June 17 presidential race after the largest pro-reform party said it would boycott the vote.
The surprise move by Khamenei, who has the last word in all state matters but rarely intervenes openly in political affairs, could offer reformists a lifeline to retain the presidency held by pro-reform cleric &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/cis/2002/04/24/27903.html ' target=_blank>Mohammad Khatami since 1997.
It may also damage the chances of front-runner &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/world/2005/05/11/59681.html ' target=_blank>Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a moderate conservative whose message of detente with the West and economic liberalisation appeals to reformist supporters.
In a letter to the Guardian Council -- which on Sunday said it had qualified just six candidates, nearly all conservatives, for the presidential race -- Khamenei said it would be "preferable for people from all political tendencies" to take part in the vote, tells Reuters.
According to ABC News, Khamenei made the statement after parliamentary speaker Gholam Ali Haddad Adel, also a hard-liner, called on the supreme leader to intervene in the growing dispute over the disqualification of Moin and Mehralizadeh to encourage more Iranians to vote June 17.
Moin, a former culture minister and the top presidential prospect for reformists, had said he would not vote in the elections and called his disqualification "illegal, unfair and illogical."
Khamenei made no mention of 89 women hopefuls who have been barred from running because of their gender, and it is not expected that women would be allowed to run.
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