Iran accuses U.S. and France of ‘interfering’ in presidential polls

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Iran accused the United States and France of “interference” for criticizing it for barring hundreds of would-be candidates in next month's presidential election, media reports said on Sunday.

Tehran is “highly sensitive” about comments targeting its internal affairs, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said.

His spokesman Abbas Araqchi added: “Elections in Iran are free and transparent. They are held based on the country's laws and regulations.”

Their comments came after the news on Tuesday that the Guardians Council, Iran's unelected electoral watchdog, had cleared just eight male candidates out of 868 registrants to stand in the June 14 election.

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

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

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry slammed the Islamic republic on Friday for disqualifying would-be 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,” 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.”

Salehi warned U.S. 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,” he said.

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

Two key figures -- moderate ex-president Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and divisive 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.

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