"A certain number of ministers and vice-presidents have resigned," Vice-President Muhammad Ali Abtahi said on Wednesday after a meeting of the reformist government.

However, he added the politicians would continue in their jobs and await the outcome of the re-examination of its candidate blacklist by the Guardians Council.

The conservative political watchdog has barred 3605 of the 8157 people seeking to stand for the 20 February parliamentary polls.

"It is natural that they wait for the outcome of the work" of the Guardians Council, Abtahi said, without naming the cabinet members who had decided to resign.

Abtahi, an outspoken reformer who is also believed to be among those ready to step down, did not say whether the ministers and vice-presidents had set a deadline.

Tough stance

"The provincial governors, ministers and vice-presidents are very determined, and I hope that with the directives given by the Supreme Leader (Ayat Allah Ali Khamenei) we will have a more favourable climate for free elections"

Muhammad Ali Abtahi
Iranian Vice-President

But he did emphasise that the reformers were "determined".

"The provincial governors, ministers and vice-presidents are very determined, and I hope that with the directives given by the Supreme Leader (Ayat Allah Ali Khamenei) we will have a more favourable climate for free elections," he said.

"I hope that in two or three days, we will see a change in attitude," Abtahi added.

The Guardians Council, a 12-member watchdog that screens all legislation and candidates for public office, plunged Iran into one of its most serious crises with it disqualification of candidates for parliament, or Majlis.

Most were reformists, and among those figuring on the blacklist were prominent figures in the reform movement and 83 incumbent MPs.

Abtahi said with the current levels of disqualifications, it was impossible for reformers to contest even 180 out of the 290 seats in the Majlis.

"It would be a shame for a great revolution, on the eve of its 25th anniversary, to have such a crisis," Abtahi said.