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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Iranian Leader Urges His People to the Polls

TEHRAN, Iran / WASHINGTON -- Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's highest authority, called on Tuesday for a high turnout in December elections and urged parties not to get entangled in "backbiting", as political bickering has mounted.

Iranians vote Dec. 15 for a powerful clerical body, the Assembly of Experts, which appoints, supervises and can dismiss the supreme leader. They will also vote for members of city and village councils.

The polls will be the first national vote since Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's win last year, which sealed a conservative grip on Iran's main levers of power. Pro-reform opponents are trying to regroup after a string of electoral losses.

"Participate in this election with full enthusiasm and full knowledge. ... Everyone should participate in the election because of a sense of duty," Khamenei said.

Turnout in the last vote eight years ago was low, as many Iranians felt it had little impact on their lives. But analysts say this year's vote may attract more interest as criticism of the government has mounted.

Meanwhile, the head of the UN atomic energy agency confirmed Monday that Iran had taken another step in its ability to enrich uranium, as the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush and European allies failed to reach agreement on sanctions against Tehran's expanding nuclear program.

Mohammed Elbaradei, the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Iranian technicians had pieced together a second line, or cascade, of 164 centrifuges and were days away from using the cascade to enrich uranium. "It's in place and ready to go," Elbaradei said in a brief interview yesterday.

Iran is keen to restart talks with six major powers on its disputed nuclear program and was willing to discuss all issues, Tehran's envoy to Russia said Tuesday, The Associated Press reported.

Ambassador Gholamreza Ansari, replied: "I am certain that Iran is ready for talks to begin as soon as possible, all issues can be discussed during these negotiations," RIA-Novosti reported.

(WP, Reuters)