The declaration was made in a statement carried by the state IRNA news agency on Friday.

The council, a right-wing bastion that screens all laws and candidates for public office, has reinstated 1,160 of the some 3,600 candidates it initially banned from standing in the 20 February polls, it said.

Those barred, allegedly for not respecting Islam or the constitution, included some 80 sitting MPs and prominent leaders of the reform movement.

But the decision sparked a huge backlash among moderates allied with President Muhammad Khatami and drew allegations the council was trying to force reformers out of parliament.

The council said in its statement it had approved 5,451 out of 7,900 candidates who wanted to stand. That contradicts previous reports that there were 8,157 prospective candidates.

It did not list which candidates had been reinstated - notably whether they included the 80 sitting MPs or other reformist leaders.

It did however say that those who remained blacklisted have three days to appeal starting at midnight Friday (2030 GMT Thursday).

Earlier in the day, the Council rejected calls from the interior ministry for a delay in next months paliamentary polls.