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Iran cuts field of presidential candidates to four

May 7, 1997

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) _ Iran’s ruling clerics selected four candidates Wednesday to run in the May 23 presidential election, turning down 234 other hopefuls.

All four support Iran’s fundamentalist Muslim establishment. None of the nine women who signed up _ the first in Iran’s history to put themselves forward as presidential candidates _ were chosen.

The decision was made by the 12-man Guardian Council, which acts as the upper house of the 270-member Parliament.

It said the candidates would be Parliament Speaker Ali Akbar Nateq-Nouri; Mohammad Khatami, a former culture minister; Mohammad Mohammadi Reyshahri, a former intelligence minister; and Syed Reza Zavareie, deputy head of the judiciary.

The winner will succeed President Hashemi Rafsanjani, who must step down by law at the end of his second four-year term in August.

Also Wednesday, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Iran would never elect a president who is soft on the West.

``If any of the presidential candidates shows the slightest sign of softness toward these enemies, their enmities and their stances, the entire world must know that the nation will definitely not vote for such a person,″ he said.

Anti-Western feelings have been high in Iran since a German court ruled last month that Iranian leaders were behind the 1992 assassination of four dissidents in Berlin.

The minimum voting age in Iran is 15, and suffrage is universal. That means about half of Iran’s population of 60 million will be eligible to vote.

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