Iran has accused the US and France of "interference" for criticising it for barring hundreds of would-be candidates in next month's presidential election.

Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said on Sunday that Tehran was "highly sensitive" about comments targeting its internal affairs, while his spokesman Abbas Araqchi said: "Elections in Iran are free and transparent. They are held based on the country's laws and regulations."

Their comments came after the news on Tuesday that the Guardians Council, Iran's unelected electoral watchdog, had cleared just eight male candidates out of 868 registrants to stand in the June 14 election.

Two key figures - moderate former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Ahmadinejad ally Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie - were among those disqualified.

French foreign ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot on Wednesday urged Iran to allow its people to "freely choose" their leaders.

'Vague criteria'

Araqchi advised Paris against "interference in the internal affairs of others and instead focus on their own domestic problems". He did not elaborate.

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US Secretary of State John Kerry slammed the Islamic republic on Friday for disqualifying would-be candidates.

"I cannot think of anyone in the world... who would not be amazed by a process in which an unelected Guardian Council, which is unaccountable to the Iranian people, has disqualified... hundreds of potential candidates according to vague criteria," Kerry said.

"The lack of transparency makes it highly unlikely that that slate of candidates is either going to represent the broad will of the Iranian people or represent a change."

Salehi warned US officials against making "unjustified" comments.

"The best advice to American officials is for them to get their information from reliable sources and specialised advisers.

“They should also be aware of the repercussions of such unjustified comments," he said.

The June 14 poll is the first since 2009, when allegations of fraud sparked street protests against the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The election comes with Iran at loggerheads with world powers over its nuclear ambitions and struggling to cope with harsh economic sanctions targeting its vital oil income.

Source: AFP