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Lawmakers Say Iran's Larijani Rejects Call To Bar Religious Minorities From Elections

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Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani (file photo)RFL/RE - Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani has dismissed a call by the head of the powerful Guardians Council to prevent members of religious minorities from running in city council elections in May, according to two lawmakers.

Ghasem Mirzayi, a member of the board in charge of overseeing municipal elections, said on April 19 that Larijani had issued a "written order" stating that the law should be observed, meaning that religious minorities should not be barred from running.

Mirzayi spoke a day after the ILNA news agency published a letter in which the head of the Guardians Council, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, said that religious minorities should not be allowed to run in Muslim-majority cities.

Jannati said their participation would violate Islamic law and go against comments by the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who led the 1979 revolution against the shah and is considered the founder of the Islamic republic.

Mirzayi said Jannati's proposal was "illegal" as the Guardians Council is not in charge of vetting those running for city councils.

"The parliament is in charge of overseeing the city council elections and the Guardians Council has nothing to do with it," Mirzayi was quoted as saying by Iranian media.

Esfandiari Ekhtiari, who represents Zoroastrians in the Iranian parliament, also said that Larijani had told the board to act according to the law.

Ekhtiari told the ISNA news agency that Jannati's call was a violation of the constitution that officially recognizes Zoroastrians, Jews, and Christians as religious minorities in predominantly Shi'ite Muslim Iran.

City council elections across Iran will be held simultaneously with the May 19 presidential election.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Radio Farda, ISNA and the BBC