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GC official denies saying Iranian women can run for presidency

Tehran, Jan 22, IRNA -- The Guardian Council spokesman Gholamhossein Elham on Saturday rejected the statement attributed to him that Iranian women can stand for presidency.

He said that no change has been made in the stance of the Guardian Council about the meaning of political and religious personalities 'Rejal'. And the body still believes that Rejal means men.

Foreign media had quoted Elham as saying that women can also sign up as candidates in the presidential election and even several political groups had congratulated the head of the Guardian Council Ahmad Jannati on the change of heart.

Following is an an earlier report by IRNA on the subject:

Mainstream grouping hails decision to let women stand for president

Tehran, Jan 22, IRNA -- A mainstream grouping has thanked the supervisory Guardian Council for allowing women to stand for president for the first time in the Islamic Republic.

Gholamhossein Elham, the spokesman for the council which screens electoral processes as well as parliamentary decisions, announced Friday that women can run in June's presidential election.

The announcement was a dramatic about-face from the Guardian Council's own decision last October after it put its foot down to say that only men can contest presidential elections.

The announcement has also put an end to a long-standing bitter argument over how to interpret the Constitution, which stipulate that a presidential candidate must be among the 'rejal', a literally meaning 'men' in Arabic.

Speaking in the western city of Khorramabad, Elham said, "Women who have the necessary qualifications have the right to run in the presidential elections."

In a letter to the Secretary of the Guardian Council Ahmad Jannati, the Front for Consolidating Democracy, which groups 15 parties, hailed the decision.

"Member parties of the Front for Consolidating Democracy consider the candidacy of women in presidential elections as one of the key characteristics of religious democracy," said part of the letter, received by IRNA.

"Permitting women to become candidates in the presidential election is in line with realizing the core strategies of the establishment, namely a maximum participation of the electorate in the ninth round of the presidential election," it added.

Iran's current president, Mohammad Khatami, is nearing the end of his second consecutive term and the constitution bars him from serving more than two consecutive mandates.

Several people have announced their bid to run in the election, including former Parliament speaker Mehdi Karroubi.

The mid-ranking cleric has welcomed a swelling list of candidates, saying a 'magnificent' organization of the election could help 'lift some of the international pressures (on Iran) or lessen them'.

The white-turbaned theologian, who is the secretary of the Association of the Combatant Clerics, has launched his presidential bid with a charm offensive, trying to actuate the same spirit which propelled President Mohammad Khatami to a landslide in 1997.

Karroubi's announcement, however, could further split the vote with the presence of such reformists as former higher education minister Mostafa Moin and incumbent Vice President Mohsen Mehr-Alizadeh who have entered the race.

Karroubi has stressed that 'I will not pull out of the race in favor of anyone nor will I ask anyone to do so'.

The list is still growing, with Iran's Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council and top nuclear negotiator, Hassan Rowhani, having confirmed his intention to join the race as has the former head of the state broadcasting, Ali Larijani.

Others included in the list are Iran's former foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati, who is now the supreme leader's top advisor, and former chief of the Islamic Revolution's Guards Corps, Mohsen Rezaie.

But a key contender -- former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who chairs the arbitrative Expediency Council -- is biding his time.

He recently announced that 'if the country's elite ask me to participate, I will definitely come to the scene'.

... Payvand News - 1/22/05 ... --

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