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Reformist Iranian Parliament Speaker Will Participate in Election Despite Misgivings


Iran's parliament speaker says he will take part in this week's parliamentary elections, even as many reformists say they face almost certain defeat because hardliners have banned thousands of pro-reform candidates from seeking office.

Parliament speaker Mehdi Karoubi, a reformist, told a news conference Monday that he will run for re-election, even though he considers the election process to be unfair.

Mr. Karoubi said that maintaining a reformist presence in the February 20 poll is more useful than not participating.

More than a third of the candidates, mostly reformists, were disqualified from seeking parliamentary seats by the conservative Guardian Council last month. The council is made up of 12 appointed clerics and jurists, and has the power to screen candidates that it deems do not conform to Islamic principles.

About 600 of the more than 1,000 reformist candidates who were approved to run have since decided to pull out of the election in protest. Conservative candidates now face no opposition in almost half of the parliamentary contests.

A spokesman for the Coalition for Iran, a group that represents eight pro-reform parties, said Sunday that reformists will almost certainly lose their majority in parliament, which they have held since the election in 2000.

Iran's main pro-reform student group has urged voters to boycott this election, and criticized Iran's reformist president, Mohammed Khatami, for agreeing to go ahead with what they see as an unfair process

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