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Last Updated: Saturday, 22 January, 2005, 20:09 GMT
Iran official denies women remark
Iranian women at political demonstration
Women have been pushing for a bigger role in Iranian public life
A top official with Iran's electoral watchdog has denied saying women are eligible to contest the presidency.

An Iranian TV report had earlier quoted Gholamhossein Elham as saying women with the "necessary qualifications" would be free to run for high office.

He has now told Iran's student news agency he never made such a statement.

Iran is due to elect a new president in June, when the current incumbent, the reformist Mohammad Khatami, reaches the end of his second and final term.

Iranian law states the president must be one of the political "rejal" - an ambiguous term that can be interpreted to mean "men" or "personalities".

Iran's constitutional watchdog, the Guardian Council, has adhered to the narrower definition of "rejal", thereby excluding women.

"My perspective on the Guardian Council's viewpoint on political and religious 'rejal' is that it has not changed," Mr Elham was quoted as saying by the IRNA news agency on Saturday, rejecting the earlier reports that quoted him saying women could run for president.

As well as forming electoral laws, the Council is responsible for vetting individual candidates.

Religious hardliners dominate the current parliament, which contains 11 women MPs.

One of Iran's five vice-presidents is also a woman.

Some senior clerics in the Islamic republic have in the past said there is no bar to women holding the presidency, or even becoming supreme religious leader, says the BBC's regional analyst, Sadeq Saba.

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