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Registration opens in Iran’s presidential vote; hardliners seen as ascendant

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TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran opened registration Tuesday for potential candidates in the country’s June presidential election, kicking off the race as uncertainty looms over Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal with world powers and tensions remain high with the West.

President Hassan Rouhani can’t run again due to term limits, yet with the poll just a month away no immediate favorite has emerged among the many rumored candidates. There also appears to be little interest in the vote by a public crushed by sanctions and the coronavirus pandemic.

Nevertheless, many view the country’s hardliners as ascendant — even as the US under President Joe Biden tries to find a way to re-enter the atomic accord.

Whoever wins the June 18 vote will take over from Rouhani, a relative moderate within the Islamic Republic whose two four-year terms began with Iran reaching the nuclear deal. His time in office now draws to a close with the accord unraveled after the US unilaterally withdrew from it under President Donald Trump in 2018.

The collapse of the deal, which saw Iran limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for sanctions relief, has seen Iran abandon those restrictions and enrich uranium to its highest levels ever. Weeks of talks in Vienna on Iran and the US returning to the deal have yet to make major progress, something that grows less likely as Rouhani’s time in office runs out.

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Within Iran, candidates exist on a political spectrum that broadly includes hard-liners who want to expand Iran’s nuclear program and........

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