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Friday, December 15, 2006


Teheran, 15 Dec. (AKI) - A person was killed in a bomb blast in Iran's Baluchistan region and hardline Islamists attacked several reformist candidates in Teheran on Friday marring elections regarded as the first real test of hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's popularity since he took office in August 2005. The bomb exploded in the Baluchistan capital, Zahedan, near the regional government's headquarters - an attack claimed by the separatist Jondollah group. Another bomb blast also struck the city, but no injuries were reported.

Ethnic Baluchis have been protesting because none of their candidates were allowed to stand for positions in the Assembly of Experts, a body which will choose Iran's supreme leader. All the candidates for the 86 member Assembly of Experts had to be approved by a conservative panel.

Millions of Iranian voters were also casting ballots in local government elections where 247,000 candidates are running for 113,000 seats on town councils. The reformists have managed to form a single list, unlike conservatives aligned to Ahmadinejad.

In Teheran, the deputy armed forces chief General Hossein Zolfaghari told reporters that several people were injured in the clashes involving the hardliners and reformists, however he said that voting was going ahead "regularly".

According to a report by Iranian newsagency Fars, security forces have prevented journalists from monitoring votings in at several polling stations. Other reports said that representatives from the reformist bloc were prevented from reaching some of the stations. Iran's interior ministry refused to confirm or deny the reports when contacted by Adnkronos International (AKI).
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