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Bush Critical of Iran Elections


President Bush says presidential elections in Iran are designed to keep power in the hands of rulers who he says suppress liberty at home and spread terror across the world.

President Bush says Friday's election in Iran is, in his words, "sadly consistent with the oppressive record of an unelected few, who have retained power through an electoral process that ignores the basic requirements of democracy."

In a written statement, Mr. Bush said Iran's rulers have prevented more than a thousand candidates from running in this election, including popular reformers and women, who, the president says, have done much for the cause of freedom and democracy in Iran.

Several candidates are in a tight race to replace outgoing President Mohammad Khatami, who is barred from seeking re-election by term-limit laws. Former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who has campaigned in part on improving relations with the United States, is leading most opinion polls. Analysts expect Friday's poll will not produce an outright winner, and will require a run-off election.

In his statement, President Bush said the Iranian people deserve a truly free and democratic system, in which elections are honest. He says they deserve freedom of assembly, so they can press for reform and a peaceful, loyal opposition to keep the government in check.

Mr. Bush says Iranians deserve a free economy that delivers opportunity and prosperity and economic independence from the state. He says they also deserve an independent judiciary that will guarantee the rule of law and ensure equal justice for all people.

President Bush says the regime in Tehran denies all these rights. He says it shuts down independent newspapers and Web sites, and jails those who dare to challenge what he calls a corrupt system.

Mr. Bush says Americans believe in the right of the Iranian people to make their own decisions and determine their own future.

U.S. officials say they believe Iran is developing a secret nuclear-weapons program and wants the country to agree to additional inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Iran says its nuclear program is only for generating electricity.

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