Iran has reportedly barred former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's protege, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, from running in next month's presidential election, according to multiple sources citing state-run Press TV.
In fact, only eight out of 686 potential candidates were cleared by the Guardian Council, which is loyal to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Those candidates include former Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati, Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili and Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, all of whom have close ties to the Supreme leader.
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Rafsanjani, who was president of Iran from 1989 to 1997, is seen as a candidate who would attract liberal and reformist minded voters, according to Haaretz, and a significant challenge to Khamenei.
A spokesman for the Guardian Council said on Monday "that it would bar physically feeble candidates" indicating it could disqualify the 78-year-old Rafsanjani, according to Haaretz.
Meanwhile, Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Araqchi said Iran’s nuclear stance will “not change either before or after the election.”
Reuters said the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is expected on Wednesday to report that Iran continues to increase its capacity to create nuclear material for an atomic bomb.
However, Reuters reported Western diplomats said Iran's "most sensitive nuclear stockpile has been held back because some of it has been used for reactor fuel" which could buy more time for diplomatic efforts aimed at halting Iran's nuclear program.
Israel closely monitors Iran's production of medium-enriched uranium gas and has threatened airstrikes if Tehran gathers enough of the material for a bomb.