The grandson of Iran's revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini has made a rare intervention ahead of elections, urging the military to avoid politics and criticising the disqualification of candidates, the media reported on Sunday.
Hassan Khomeini, a mid-ranking cleric who is the most prominent of Khomeini's grandchildren, said his late grandfather had wanted the military to keep clear of politics.
"If a soldier wants to enter into politics, he needs to forget the military as the presence of a gun in politics means the end of all dialogue," Hassan Khomeini said in an interview with the Shahrvand weekly published on Sunday.
"It is a criteria of fidelity to the line of imam Khomeini," he added.
Hassan Khomeini is in charge of the care of the mausoleum of the late leader outside Tehran and is a leading figure in Iran's Islamic system despite holding no official position.
He rarely makes comments, let alone such outspoken remarks, in public. With both Ayatollah Khomeini's sons now dead, Hassan Khomeini is seen as the main family heir.
His comments come after the head of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, Mohammad Ali Jaafari, gave his backing to conservatives in the March 14 parliamentary elections, but it was not clear if the interview was made after those remarks.
"One of the most important criteria for following the path laid out by the imam [Khomeini] is the presence, or not, of the military in politics," the grandson said.
"Those who claim to be loyal to the imam should be very sensitive to this order, which was directly given by him."
The Revolutionary Guards are Iran's ideological army and many of its former members now hold prominent positions in government, including President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Hassan Khomeini's comments on the army come just days after he bitterly criticised the disqualification of over 2,000 mainly reformist candidates from the election.
"This blade has not only decapitated you, it took off the heads of numerous friends in all the social groups and that is regrettable," Hassan Khomeini was quoted as telling reformist leaders on Friday.
"No-one can prevent the people from deciding their future," he added, according to the ISNA news agency.
His comments came amid mounting criticism of the vetting process not only from reformists - who say their chances have been wrecked by the disqualifications - but also conservatives.
Leading conservative MP Ahmad Tavakoli has written a letter to the hardline Guardians Council, which has the final say in the vetting process, warning the disqualifications could lead to a low turnout in the March 14 vote.
"The quantity and quality of the rejection of candidates has reached such an extent this time that it is worrying the friends of the Islamic revolution," said Tavakoli.
Another conservative MP, Mohammad Khoschehreh, also expressed worries that there could have been "political reasons" for the disqualifications.
The candidates were disqualified in the first phase of vetting by committees working under the interior ministry. A second phase of vetting is now being carried out by supervisory committees of the Guardians Council.
The Council then draws up the final list of candidates, which it is due to publish on May 4.
Deputy Interior Minister Mohammad Hossein Moussapour said many candidates had been disqualified for presenting insufficient documentation and could yet be reinstated if they came up with the right documents.
"What is sure is that the number of candidates approved is going to increase," he said.
Former president Mohammad Khatami, the champion of Iranian reformists, has described the disqualifications as a "catastrophe" that threatens the future of the Islamic revolution. (AFP)
Khomeini's grandson speaks out ahead of Iran vote