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EU Warns of Impact of Upcoming Iranian Elections - 2004-01-12

Amid an intensifying political crisis in Iran, a senior EU official has told Iranian leaders that the way their scheduled February parliamentary election is conducted will have an impact on their country's relations with the European Union.

During a visit to Iran, EU Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana criticized a decision by the appointed hardline-Islamist Guardian Council to ban thousands of candidates from participating in next month's parliamentary elections.

Mr. Solana called for a fair election in Iran, and said that fairness in the process leading up to the election is as important as fairness on election day. The EU official said the decision to prevent certain candidates from participating in the February election would be difficult to explain to the European Union.

On Sunday, the 12 member Guardian Council disqualified thousands of the more than 8,000 candidates who were planning to run for parliament. Many reformers were among them, including more than 80 members of the current parliament. One of them is the brother of reformist Iranian President Mohammed Khatami.

The Guardian Council is a religious authority that has broad powers, including the ability to veto laws approved by the parliament and the president. It has blocked several reform initiatives in recent years.

Iran's relations with Europe have been improving since Iran agreed in November to allow more international access to its nuclear facilities.

Mr. Solana's visit was intended to continue Europe's dialogue with Iran on human rights and bilateral trade. But those issues have been largely overshadowed by the Guardian Council's announcement.

Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi echoed the EU foreign policy chief's concerns, saying he hopes the problem will be solved.