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Ahmadinejad vows appeal on ballot ruling

TEHRAN, Iran -- President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said yesterday that a decision by election overseers to disqualify his top aide from next month's presidential race is an act of "oppression" and that he will take the case to the country's supreme leader.

His comments on his website came the day after the Guardian Council removed Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei from the final candidate list.

Despite Ahmadinejad's pledge to appeal, it is unlikely that the Guardian Council made its decision without the blessing of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. It allowed only eight candidates, most hard-liners associated with the clerical establishment.

Most hope for an opposition revival had rested with former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who was not approved by the Guardian Council.

The ruling dealt a serious blow to Ahmadinejad's hopes of having a loyalist succeed him. He can't run in the June 14 ballot due to term limits. Ahmadinejad has strongly supported his protege. But Mashaei is disliked by hard-liners because of his alleged role in the bitter feud between Ahmadinejad and the ruling clerics. They have denounced him as part of a "deviant current" that seeks to undermine the country's Islamic system.-- AP

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