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Iranian Elections to Proceed on Schedule, President Says - 2004-02-07


Iran's president has said he objects to the conservative Islamic Guardian Council's decision to disqualify more than 2,000 reformist candidates from the coming parliamentary election. But even so, he says the elections will proceed on schedule.

In a letter to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, President Mohammed Khatami and Parliament Speaker Mehdi Karroubi said they felt the Guardian Council had not followed the ayatollah's order for a review of all the barred candidates.

But despite their reservations, the president and parliament speaker still pledged to obey the ayatollah's order to hold elections on time.

The ayatollah has the final say on all state matters in Iran. After the hard-line Guardian Council eliminated some 3600 mostly reformist candidates from the February 20 ballot, the ayatollah ordered the council to review its decision. After an initial review, the council reinstated about 1100 candidates.

The 12-member Guardian Council is appointed by the ayatollah and has the power to screen candidates and veto legislation that it deems is out of line with Islamic law. Reformists complain that the council's move to disqualify most of the prominent liberal candidates is a tactic to regain conservative control of parliament.

The political crisis deepened when dozens of reformist lawmakers submitted their resignations and Iran's major reform party called for an election boycott.

Ayatollah Khamenei intervened for a second time in the election crisis last week when he rejected reformist calls for a postponement of the election. At the same time he told the Guardian Council to complete a second review of the remaining 2400 banned candidates.

President Khatami's brother is the leader of Iran's main pro-reform party and one of banned candidates. He says his party will go ahead with plans to boycott the election.

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