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Iran's Ahmadinejad says will challenge ally's ban from election

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Wednesday he would take up the ban of his close aide from the June 14 presidential election with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iranian media reported.

Iran's electoral watchdog on Tuesday disqualified Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, Ahmadinejad's former chief of staff, and moderate ex-president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani from running in the vote, eliminating two powerful and potentially disruptive candidates and leaving the field dominated by hardliners loyal to Khamenei.

"I introduced Mr. Mashaie and I know him," Ahmadinejad said on Wednesday, according to ISNA news agency. "He is a righteous person and beneficial for the country, and I believe he is capable."

"In my opinion there will be no problem with the Leader and I will take up this issue until the last moment with him," Ahmadinejad said. "I am hopeful the problem will be solved."

Mashaie is viewed with suspicion by figures from Iran's conservative establishment, who believe he heads a "deviant current" that seeks to sideline clerical authority.

They also believe that Ahmadinejad, who has fallen out with Iran's conservatives since his disputed 2009 re-election and cannot seek a third consecutive term because of constitutional limits, seeks to maintain power through his ally.

(Reporting By Yeganeh Torbati; Editing by Pravin Char)

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