Khamenei tells Iranians: criticising election will help enemies

* Unclear if reformists will be allowed to run in June vote

* Supreme leader says criticism could serve Iran's enemies

* Ex-Pres. Rafsanjani hopes for "restoration of moderation"

DUBAI, Jan 8 (Reuters) - Iran's most powerful leader,
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warned the Iranian public on Tuesday
against helping Tehran's enemies by criticising the forthcoming
presidential election.

Iranians go to the polls in June to elect a successor to
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Iran's leadership is keen to
avoid a repeat of the widespread protests that followed the last
presidential vote in 2009.

Khamenei's comments appear to be a response to a debate
inside Iran about whether reformist candidates - those with a
more moderate stance on issues such as social policy and greater
political freedoms - should be allowed to run.

"Everyone, even those who make general recommendations about
the election through (expressing) c oncerns, should take care not
to serve the purpose of the enemy," Khamenei said in a statement
published on his official website.

Analysts say reformist candidates may be allowed to run for
election if they distance themselves from the two 2009
presidential candidates, Mirhossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi,
who have been under house arrest for nearly two years.

The two opposition leaders alleged Ahmadinejad's landslide
reelection was rigged and they became figureheads for the "green
movement" anti-government demonstrations across Iran, the
biggest opposition protests since the 1979 revolution.

The government denied vote rigging and said the protests had
been stirred up by Iran's foreign enemies as part of a plot to
overthrow the Islamic Republic's system of government.

Reformist groups are torn between participating in the
election and boycotting it unless Mousavi and Karoubi are freed.
Their position is expected to be debated at a meeting of
reformist groups later this month.

Last month, former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani
said that a free, transparent and legal election could pave the
way for "restoration of moderation" in the country, the Tehran
Times newspaper reported.

Longstanding enmity between Iran and the West has deepened
in recent years, with increasingly severe sanctions led by the
United States and European Union, designed to halt Iran's
nuclear programme, strangling the economy.

Iran says its nuclear project has only peaceful purposes and
has refused in three rounds of international talks since April
to scale back its uranium enrichment activity unless major
economic sanctions are rescinded.

(Reporting By Marcus George; Editing by William Maclean and
Robin Pomeroy)