Iran announced Wednesday that its constitutional watchdog approved three prominent candidates to run against Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the upcoming June election, setting the stage for a showdown between reformists and hard-liners who have both criticized the current leader.
Hard-liners have used the Guardian Council in the past to block reformist candidates who favor improving ties with the West and relaxing restrictions at home. But the group approved the two most prominent reformists candidates, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi, likely because they were too high-profile to reject.
The watchdog also approved a well-known conservative candidate, Mohsen Rezaei, a former leader of Iraq's elite Revolutionary Guards who has joined his reformist competitors in criticizing Ahmadinejad for mismanaging Iran's economy.
The group rejected 471 other candidates who wanted to run, including illiterate peasants, a 12-year-old boy and 42 women, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.