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Last Updated: Monday, 18 December 2006, 15:54 GMT
Poll blow for Iran's Ahmadinejad
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Pro-Ahmadinejad candidates failed to win control of councils
Partial results from key elections in Iran suggest a setback for conservative President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Friday's elections were for the powerful clerical body, the Assembly of Experts, along with local government.

On a turnout of 60%, the big winners seem to be moderate conservatives, while reformists have made a comeback after three poor election showings.

Moderate former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani sealed a landslide win for a seat on the Assembly of Experts.

Presidential pressure

With most of the results for local elections announced throughout the country, the president's allies have failed to win control of any council.

Iranians are voting in two sets of elections
Assembly of Experts poll: Powerful clerical body which supervises the Supreme Leader
Local council polls: More than 250,000 candidates for around 100,000 seats nationwide
46.5 million eligible voters

With about 20% of the Tehran votes counted, Mr Ahmadinejad's supporters were said to be in a minority. Candidates supporting moderate conservative Mayor Mohammed Bagher Qalibaf were ahead.

Not a single candidate supporting the president won a seat on councils in the key cities of Shiraz, Rasht or Bandar Abbas.

The president's supporters have also failed to make significant gains on the Assembly of Experts, which can dismiss the supreme leader.

BBC Iran affairs analyst Sadeq Saba says the message is loud and clear and is likely to increase pressure on Mr Ahmadinejad to change his policies.

Reformists hailed the early results. The Islamic Iran Participation Front said: "It is a big 'no' to the government's authoritarian and inefficient methods."

The biggest winner, our correspondent says, is Mr Rafsanjani, who was defeated by Mr Ahmadinejad in the 2005 presidential elections.

A conservative cleric close to Mr Ahmadinejad, Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi, came only sixth in the Assembly of Experts poll.

At 60%, the overall turnout was significantly higher than for the 2002 local elections, when it was about 50%.

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