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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

SLUG: 2-312015 Iran / Politics (L)

DATE= 1/19/2004






INTRO: Iranian president Mohammed Khatami's political party is threatening to boycott the upcoming parliamentary elections unless thousands of banned candidates are allowed back on the ballot. Kerry Sheridan reports from V-O-A's Middle East Bureau in Cairo.

TEXT: The president's party issued a statement Sunday saying that if urgent steps are not taken to settle the political crisis, it will not take part in the election.

Mr. Khatami's pro-reform party includes Islamic clerics who split 15-years ago from what was then Iran's ruling party, the Association of Combatant Clergy.

The president attended his party's central committee meeting Sunday. The committee approved the threat to boycott the election.

The president's party, called the Association of Combatant Clerics, is the latest group to weigh-in on the political crisis that erupted when Iran's Guardian Council disqualified thousands of reformist candidates from the parliamentary election scheduled for February. The conservative, appointed Council wields significant power in Iran.

President Khatami also thanked Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, for calling for the Guardian Council to review its decision.

The Council began its review process on Saturday, and has allowed some previously blacklisted candidates back onto the ballot, but the Council has not said exactly how many cases it has overturned.

Parliament speaker Mehdi Karoubi urged the Guardian Council to act with more speed, so that candidates who have been approved will have adequate time to prepare their campaigns.

More than 80 members of parliament are among the blacklisted candidates. The move by the powerful Islamist hardliners prompted a wave of resignation threats among dozens of senior government officials. President Khatami has also indicated he might resign.

Resignation threats have become so commonplace among reformists in Iran that many observers do not believe the officials will actually step down.

Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi was quoted in London's Guardian newspaper as saying the president should now fulfill his promise to resign if the Guardian Council continues to block his reform efforts.

Reformists won a majority in Iran's parliament in 2000. But since then the Guardian Council has blocked many reformist initiatives. (SIGNED)


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