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Top figures barred from Iran's presidential ballot

By Nasser Karimi and Brian Murphy

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, May 22 2013 12:01 a.m. MDT

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, meets with Oman's Sultan Qaboos bin Said at Bait Al Baraka in Muscat, Oman, Tuesday, May 21, 2013. (AP Photo?Jim Young,Pool)

Associated Press

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran's election overseers removed potential wild-card candidates from the presidential race Tuesday, blocking a top aide of outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and a former president who revived hopes of reformers.

Their exclusion from the June 14 presidential ballot gives establishment-friendly candidates a clear path to succeed Ahmadinejad, who has lost favor with the ruling clerics after years of power struggles. It also pushes moderate and opposition voices further to the margins as Iran's leadership faces critical challenges such as international sanctions and talks with world powers over Tehran's nuclear program.

The official ballot list, announced on state TV, followed a nearly six-hour delay in which the names were kept under wraps. That raised speculation that authorities allowed some time for appeals by the blackballed candidates and their backers to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has final say in all matters.

But the official slate left off two prominent but divisive figures: former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Ahmadinejad protege Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei.

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