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Kerry: Tehran impedes election

| Friday, May 24, 2013, 9:48 p.m.

TEL AVIV — Secretary of State John Kerry criticized Iranian authorities on Friday for eliminating hundreds of presidential candidates, suggesting that Tehran is standing in the way of legitimate representative democracy.

Among those disqualified this week by Iran's Guardian Council was former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

The purge was viewed as a demoralizing blow to pro-reform groups, and Kerry declared himself “amazed” by a process under which an unelected body, accountable to no one, picked candidates “based solely on who represents the regime's interests, rather than who might represent some different point of view from the Iranian people.”

“That is hardly an election by which most people in most countries judge free, fair and accessible, accountable elections,” Kerry told reporters in Tel Aviv after two days of talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. “The lack of transparency makes it highly unlikely that that slate of candidates is either going to represent the broad will of the iranian people, or represent a change.”

Kerry addressed the shared U.S.-Israeli concern over Iran's nuclear program, a major element of his talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres.

Addressing a recent report of the U.N. nuclear agency that was highly critical of Iran, Kerry said the U.S. still hoped that the Islamic republic's leadership would enter serious talks over its nuclear program.

“The clock is clearly ticking,” Kerry said.

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