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Political Crisis in Iran Worsens - 2004-02-01

Iran's political crisis between reformists and conservatives deepened Sunday when 123 members of parliament submitted their resignations. Iran's reformists say they reached a dead-end in the standoff and had no other choice but to step down.

More than a third of Iran's reformist parliamentarians have submitted their resignations, saying they cannot serve in a government that holds unfair elections and doesn't represent the will of the people.

In a fiery address broadcast live on Iran's state radio, reformist members of parliament accused the country's Islamic authorities of treason, saying they are trying to create a religious dictatorship by rigging the election.

The resigning officials include more than 80 sitting members of parliament who were banned by the hard-line Guardian Council from seeking re-election.

The resignations came two days after the conservative Guardian Council announced it had reinstated only a third of the 3,600 mostly reformist candidates it disqualified from Iran's coming parliamentary election.

Parliament speaker Mehdi Karoubi said parliament will vote next week on whether to accept the resignations.

Mr. Karoubi also appealed to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to intervene in the deepening political crisis.

The ayatollah, who has the final say in all state matters, has already stepped in once, when he ordered the oversight Guardian Council of 12 Islamic lawyers and clerics to review its decision. The council complied, and reinstated just over a thousand candidates.

But reformists complain that the council left the ban on nearly 2,500 prominent reformists, in a thinly veiled attempt to regain conservative control of Iran's 290-seat parliament.

Earlier this week, Iran's interior minister in charge of elections called for the vote to be postponed, but the Guardian Council refused. The election is scheduled for February 20.