x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Iran slams US and French criticism of electoral vetting

Iran has accused the United States and France of "interference" over criticisms regarding the Islamic republic's barring of hundreds of candidates from next month's presidential election.

TEHRAN // Iran has accused the United States and France of "interference" over criticisms regarding the Islamic republic's barring of hundreds of candidates from next month's presidential election.

Tehran is "highly sensitive" about comments targeting its internal affairs, foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi said, according to media reports yesterday.

"Elections in Iran are free and transparent. They are held based on the country's laws and regulations," said Mr Salehi's spokesman, Abbas Araqchi.

The Guardian Council, Iran's unelected electoral watchdog, on Tuesday cleared just eight male candidates out of 686 registrants to stand in the June 14 election.

The French foreign ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot on Wednesday urged Iran to allow its people to "freely choose" their leaders.

Mr Araqchi advised Paris against "interference in the internal affairs of others and instead focus on their own domestic problems". He did not elaborate.

John Kerry, the US secretary of state, slammed Tehran on Friday for disqualifying candidates.

"I cannot think of anyone in the world ... who would not be amazed by a process in which an unelected Guardian Council, which is unaccountable to the Iranian people, has disqualified ... hundreds of potential candidates according to vague criteria," Mr Kerry said.

"The lack of transparency makes it highly unlikely that that slate of candidates is either going to represent the broad will of the Iranian people or represent a change."

Mr Salehi warned US officials against making "unjustified" comments.

"The best advice to American officials is for them to get their information from reliable sources and specialised advisers. They should also be aware of the repercussions of such unjustified comments."

The June 14 poll is the first presidential election since 2009, when allegations of fraud sparked street protests against the re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Two key figures, the moderate former president Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, and divisive Mr Ahmadinejad ally Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie - were among those disqualified.

The election comes with Iran at loggerheads with world powers over its nuclear ambitions and struggling to cope with harsh economic sanctions targeting its vital oil income.