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Top Iran Religious Body Criticizes Election Results


Top clerics from Iran's seat of religious learning, Qom, are accusing the country's top election watchdog, the Guardian Council, of not adequately investigating charges of election fraud during the disputed June 12 presidential election.

Iran's top religious leaders continue to quarrel over the validity of the disputed June 12th presidential election, with a reformist group of clerics calling the vote null and void.

Clerics in the holy city of Qom made the allegations in a statement charging the country's electoral watchdog, the Guardian Council, with failing to properly investigate charges of fraud.

"Is it possible to accept the legitimacy of the [presidential] election simply because the Guardian Council says so?" the statement asks, going on to question if "a government which is the product of irregularities [is] legitimate."

The hardline head of the Guardian Council, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, insisted once again, during Friday prayers in Tehran, the election was fair and clean.

All three defeated presidential candidates have lodged complaints of fraud and irregularities with the Council, with reformist candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi demanding the election be annulled.

Late Saturday, Mousavi's Ghalamnews website posted a 25-page report, exposing a laundry list of "fraud and irregularities," during the election, including intervention by the Revolutionary Guards and Basij militia in favor of President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad.

It also charged the Interior Ministry with printing 14-million ballots more than the number of registered voters. The Guardian council spokesman admitted, at one point, that the number of votes counted in one region exceeded the number of voters by three million.

Behind the scenes wrangling among Iran's top leaders continues to make the news. Iran's Worker's News Agency reported Saturday that former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani warned that "post-election events had caused bitterness."

But Iran's official al-Alam TV quoted Rafsanjani as saying there was "no power struggle at the top echelons of the [regime] in the wake of recent events."

Former Iranian President Abolhassan Bani Sadr, who was overthrown in 1981 and lives in exile in Paris, says that he thinks Rafsanjani and the other clerics are putting up a timid resistance to the government, but the Iranian people have been bolder:

He says that Hashemi Rafsanjani is not able to stand up to Ayatollah Khamenei directly, but is trying to oppose him in a sly and surreptitious manner, using other people as covers. The other religious leaders who came out against the government, he says, are also being cautious, questioning the legitimacy of President Ahmedinejad and the repression he is waging, and electoral fraud. The people, he argues, have gone beyond that point, crying "down with the dictator ... down with Khamenei" and questioning the legitimacy of the entire regime.

Iran's official Press TV reports Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani, who recently criticized the government's handling of the disputed election, met with President Ahmedinejad on Saturday, "congratulating him on his re-election and renewing support for him."

Meanwhile, Iran has reportedly released the eighth of nine British Embassy employees, in the face of increasing criticism and deteriorating relations with the European Union. A Greek journalist who was working for the Washington Times was also reportedly released after being held for about two weeks.

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