TEHRAN           -        Iran’s week-long parliamentary election campaign started on Thursday, state TV reported, a vote seen as a popularity test for the clerical establishment at a time when relations with Washington are at their worst since the 1979 Islamic revolution. The Guardian Council, which must approve candidates, has rejected around 6,850 moderate or conservative hopefuls in favor of hardliners from among the 14,000 applicants seeking to contest the Feb. 21 vote. About a third of lawmakers have also been barred from standing again. “The 7,150 candidates who are running for parliamentary elections have started campaigning on Thursday,” state TV reported. Pragmatist President Hassan Rouhani has criticized the disqualifications, but like supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei he has called for a high turnout as the country faces challenges over its disputed nuclear program. Khamenei, the final authority in Iran’s complex system of clerical rule and limited democracy, backed the Guardian Council, saying the next parliament was no place for those scared of speaking out against foreign enemies.