"As a result, the election was neither fair nor free," it said. 
 
The reformist resilience in the face of the mass veto comes as Ahmadinejad prepares for re-election in 2009 to continue his controversial mandate amid discontent over double-digit inflation.
 
Shahabeddin Sadr, spokesman for the main conservative coalition, told AFP news agency: "The fact that people have again entrusted parliament to the principalists is something to be treasured."
 
Larger Iranian cities have declared their winners from Friday's vote although those from Tehran - the most crucial results of all - are not expected before Monday.

But officials and the various coalitions agreed that conservatives were heading for around 70 per cent of seats in the next parliament and reformists 20 per cent, with independents making up the rest.

"More than 71 per cent of the seats inside the parliament have been won by the conservatives," Mostafa Pour Mohammadi, interior minister, announced on the basis of partial results from an unspecified number of seats.

Respectable minority

But reformists also hailed their own performance as a "remarkable success". Despite the disqualifications, they said they were on course to win about 50 seats - not including Tehran - in the 290-seat parliament.

Abdollah Nasseri, reformist coalition spokesman, told reporters: "Despite all the restrictions ... we managed to disturb the game of our opponents."

This would mean that reformists have managed to keep a respectable minority in the parliament, where they currently have about 40 MPs, despite losing hundreds of their best candidates in the vetting.

Voter turnout was said to be 60 per cent[AFP]

Pour Mohammadi hailed the turnout of around 60 per cent in the poll - slightly lower than initial estimates, but far higher than the lacklustre figure in the previous election in 2004.

But the United States condemned the elections after the disqualification by the Guardians Council of hundreds of reformist candidates deemed insufficiently loyal to the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Sean McCormack, state department spokesman, said that the results are "cooked in the sense that the Iranian people were not able to vote for a full range of people".

Ali Larijani, Iran's former senior nuclear negotiator standing for conservatives in the holy city of Qom, was elected in a landslide victory with 76 per cent of the vote, the Fars news agency said.

Tehran contest

The Tehran race will be closely watched as the reformists were able to compete for all 30 seats available there, leaving them in a fairly even competition with the conservatives.

"Despite all the restrictions...we managed to disturb the game of our opponents"

Abdolla Nasseri, reformist spokesman

The elections were also marked by divisions in the conservative camp that led to the formation of two coalitions, the Unified Front and the Broad Coalition.

The Broad Coalition is a breakaway group inspired by powerful conservatives dissatisfied by Ahmadinejad's foreign policy, which they see as confrontational, and expansionary economic measures.

The faction of Ahmadinejad loyalists, called the Sweet Scent of Service, has been running on the Unified Front list.

Iran has an inflation rate of almost 18 per cent, a problem economists say is caused by the government injecting cash into the economy to fund infrastructure projects in the provinces, as promised by the president.

Ahmadinejad still enjoys popular support among the urban poor, especially outside the capital.