TEHRAN, Iran – Iran's hard-line constitutional watchdog has decided that women can run for president in June elections, state-run television reported Saturday.
"If they posses the necessary qualifications, women can also run for president," the television quoted Guardian Council spokesman Gholamhossein Elham (search) as saying.
The announcement clears up ambiguities within the constitution about whether only men can hold the post. Under Iran's constitution, the president must be elected from among political "rijal." Rijal is an Arabic word that can be interpreted as men or simply political personalities regardless of their gender.
"The word rijal doesn't negate gender," Elham was quoted as saying.
For the past 25 years, the Guardian Council (search) has rejected women from running on the basis of the "male" interpretation.
Elham did not elaborate and it was not clear what caused the council to change its interpretation.
Iran's presidential election is slated for June 17. Reformist President Mohammad Khatami (search) is prevented from running for a third term by the constitution.
The next Iranian president will face substantial challenges, including the task of convincing the world that Iran's nuclear program is peaceful.