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Author Topic:   All About Presidential Election in Iran (June 8th)..
Vatandoost
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posted May 03, 2001 10:33     Click Here to See the Profile for Vatandoost   Click Here to Email Vatandoost     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Woman candidate lashes out at Khatami

TEHRAN, May 2 (AFP) - The sole woman candidate so far in Iran's upcoming presidential election, Farah Khosravi, accused reformist President Mohammad Khatami of disapointing his female and youth supporters.

"Mohammad Khatami has not kept his promises. He has failed to keep his promises to the people, to the young and to the women," said Khosravi, 47, who who is running with the Iran-e-farda party, which has close links to the country's dominant conservative bloc.

The president is not "capable of lowering inflation, or checking unemployment," she said.

"If he runs, he will not get even eight million votes," in contrast to the 20 million votes he received in 1997, she predicted.

Khatami, a reformist cleric, was elected largely on the back of overwhelming support from women and young people. Khosravi criticised Khatami for accepting the mass closure of some 30 reformist publications over the past year and a half.

"He has the manners of a fragile man. He has not been tough" during his four-year term in office, she said. "There must be radical and deep measures to solve the country's problems," she said.

Khosravi added that she was prepared to be "less rigorous on the wearing of the hijab" -- the veil women are required to wear in the Islamic republic. Regarding the United States, Khosravi said she was in favour of improving ties with the world power once "they pay us what they owe us", a reference to some 10 billion dollars in Iranian funds frozen by the US.

Khosravi said she was confident her candidacy would be approved by the conservative Guardians Council, which vets all candidates.

Khosravi registered Wednesday to run for president. Khatami has still not said whether he intends to run for a second four-year term, the maximum permitted by the constitution.

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Iran s Ralph Nader?

The Newsweek
International News

A former U.S. hostage-taker emerges as an unexpected challenger in the country s upcoming presidential election

May 1, 2001

Ibrahim Asgharzadeh was a leader of the radical Iranian students who took over the American embassy in 1979. These days, though, Asgharzadeh has exchanged his guerrilla outfit for designer suits and is a controversial reformist member of the Tehran City Council.


RECENTLY HE ANNOUNCED plans to run for office in next month s presidential elections against incumbent Mohammad Khatami, whom Asgharzadeh believes was unsuccessful in carrying out reforms in Iran. His announcement was not welcome by many reformists, who believe this will cause a division in the reform movement. But Asgharzadeh believes that his candidacy will allow those who are disappointed in Khatami and his reforms to take part in the elections once again.


Asgharzadeh spoke with NEWSWEEK s Maziar Bahari in Tehran last week. Excerpts:

NEWSWEEK: What is the difference between Ibrahim Asgharzadeh in 1979 and Ibrahim Asgharzadeh now?

Asgharzadeh: I was a radical student who was in a rush to reach my ideals. But as you get older and more experienced you learn to be softer and more realistic. I no longer subscribe to radical actions and revolutions, rather, I prefer gradual reforms in my country. I believe the outcome of gradual reforms last much longer than radical and revolutionary changes.

NEWSWEEK: Why do you want to become president?

Asgharzadeh: I think my plans to advance reforms in the country are stronger than Mr. Khatami's. I don t think his government has performed well in regards to foreign policy, national economy and social welfare. Solving these problems will also strengthen the democratic movement in my country.

NEWSWEEK: President Khatami has complained that the conservatives have caused crisis after crisis for his government in his words, one crisis every nine days and that is why he has not been able to carry out his promised reforms. Do you think the main problem is the conservatives or the government s inefficiency?

Asgharzadeh: Part of our problem is a resistance of certain sectors of society to reforms. But the government also hasn t had a clear strategy to carry out reforms in the country and that has disappointed a large number of people who voted for a reformist government.

NEWSWEEK: What could the Khatami government have done differently?

Asgharzadeh: I believe in smaller and more vibrant government. Our constitution has given too much power to the central government. If we empower civil institutions such as local councils we will move towards decentralization and a smaller government. We tried to do this after the first local elections [in 1999] but we faced resistance by the government which feared the councils would reduce its authority. I don t think that we fully explored all means of establishing relations with other countries. There are issues that affect all the countries in the world. We had to have a more active role in international community, such as taking part in drafting environmental and disarmament conventions. Our industry was also harmed by over-centralization and economic planning of the Central Bank. We ignored our taxation system and relied wholly on oil as the main source of income. Our economy is so dependent on oil that any change of price affects our economic situation.

There are increasingly more people under the poverty line compared to a few years ago and there is a large gap between different classes of our society. We have made some progress in terms of public health and hygiene, but our education system and the average income of middle classes have worsened. Some of our problems like over-population are inherent in the country but many of our problems are because of the government s wrong socio-economic planning.

NEWSWEEK: How would you solve these problems if you become president?

Asgharzadeh: I will defend the basic civil rights of the citizens of this country politically and financially. We have to deepen the roots of democracy in the country. We have to avoid confrontations and carry out reforms gradually and slowly. We have a very young country. If our youth are entangled by economic problems, they may become disenchanted with our reforms. That will force many of them to migrate from the country and many who cannot do so may also have problems such as drug addiction, etc.

Our constitution has potentials which have not been fully explored by the government. The constitution is not God-sent, it can be discussed, criticized, and changed. For example, those who wrote the economic laws [20 years ago] had certain perceptions about the economy which may not be true today. They placed many restrictions on foreign investment in the country because of their fear of foreign domination. But those laws have created an internal embargo. As if we have placed sanctions against ourselves.

We are a nation rich in history and talent. Our country is blessed by having different nationalities and ethnicities. We have to use this wealth and create a peaceful situation for coexistence of our people, so all of us can respect the basic laws of the country and cooperate with each other. This will help us to have a say in regional and international affairs. We are situated between the Caspian Sea, the Persian Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan. We have to set an example and understand our responsibility in the region and that the whole world is paying attention to what the Taliban and Saddam Hussein are doing in their countries.

NEWSWEEK: How will you deal with the conservative-dominated judiciary which has been active in suppressing reforms and imprisoning the reformists?

Asgharzadeh: We have to have new laws and amendments in order to make the judiciary responsible for its actions. We have to distribute the power and supervision of power in the country so every sector of the government is responsible for its actions.

NEWSWEEK: Many observers believe that the only reason for the Council of Guardians to qualify you as a candidate is to reduce the Khatami votes among the reformers.

Asgharzadeh: Many people who oppose the reformist movement may wish for a break within the reformists ranks. But I believe those who will vote for me are people who are disenchanted with reforms and would not vote for Mr. Khatami. They compose a great number of people in our society who ve been marginalized over the past few years. I hope my programs will attract them to participate in the elections and make decisions for the future of the country.

NEWSWEEK: In a ceremony commemorating the siege of the American embassy, you said that we have to break down the wall of mistrust between Iran and the United States and that you would welcome former hostages as guests of the Iranian nation. How do you foresee the future relations between Iran and the United States?

Asgharzadeh: The American government should change its attitude towards Iran, so we can change our attitude as well. Last year, [former U.S. Secretary of State] Madeleine Albright accepted that the American government interfered in [the] internal affairs of Iran before the revolution and supported a coup which toppled our nationalist government in 1953. Her acceptance somehow justified our rage and action in the first years of the revolution. But our past should not determine our decisions and ruin our future opportunities. The first priority of all countries is their national interest.

None of us likes a weak government, but that does not mean that our government should be interfering in internal affairs of other countries. I think the main problem in the world now is that our earth is in danger. All governments should share this responsibility but many of them choose to ignore it.

We have been suffering from drought for the past four-five years. This is definitely a result of global warming and green house effect. We don t have much time to waste on fighting each other.

I think what we did at that time was right and I still defend it. But that doesn t mean we cannot move on and enter a new stage. But the American government still adopts policies which make it very hard for us to change our attitude. American interference in the Caspian region and their persistence that oil pipelines should not go through Iran, their sanctions against us which really hurt American companies more than [the] Iranian government and their presence in the Persian Gulf which causes instability and environmental problems in the region make it very difficult for us to change our attitude towards the American government.

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Defence minister and former Labour minister challenge Khatami for Presidency

TEHRAN, May 6 (AFP) - President Mohammad Khatami on Sunday got a shock challenger for next month's presidential elections when Defence Minister Ali Shamkhani unexpectedly stepped forward as a candidate. The 46-year-old rear admiral, close to Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was an unexpected contender and his sudden appearance could mark the president's first viable competitor from the conservative camp.

The military, like the courts and security apparatus, remain under the direct control of Khamenei, the ultimate reference for conservatives who have ground Khatami's reform agenda to a halt over the past year.

"I will not be attached to any group or party known as left or right," Shamkhani said in a statement later Sunday after earlier refusing to speak to journalists, according to the official IRNA news agency.

"I believe in political development and freedom based on sharia (Islamic law)," Shamkhani said, "and believe that those who seek to threaten the legal freedoms of sharia are mistaken."

Conservatives have regularly expressed concern that Khatami's moves to liberalise society, including greater social freedom for women as well as more liberty of expression for journalists, were sometimes "anti-Islamic."

The rear admiral is a former head of the Iranian navy as well as a top officer in the nation's elite Revolutionary Guards who made his name as a military commander during Iran's brutal 1980-1988 war with Iraq.

His appearance came on the final day of registration for the June 8 election, while at least 100 others were massed outside the interior ministry hoping to present their candidacies before the close of business Sunday.

But it was the military man's surprise 11th-hour appearance, after former Revolutionary Guards chief Mohsen Rezaie declined to run, that provided the latest drama for an election being closely watched worldwide.

IRNA said more than 500 people had registered in all by Sunday afternoon for the June 8 election, which Khatami is widely expected to win, though with a much lesser mandate than the more than 20 million votes he got in 1997.

A significantly lower turnout will be seen as a victory for conservatives, who have re-asserted themselves following a string of reformist wins at the polls, including 1999's municipal elections and last year's parliamentary polls.

Former labour minister Ahmad Tavakoli, who can likewise expect support from the conservative camp, also presented himself as a potential candidate Sunday, saying Khatami had failed to deliver on his promises of four years ago.

Tavakoli, 50, ran for president in 1993, beating the eventual winner Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani in the important western province of Kurdistan.

Other leading candidates so far include critics of Khatami in his own camp such as reformist city councillor Ibrahim Asgharzadeh and liberal jurist Mahmud Kashani, and conservative cleric and former intelligence chief Ali Fallahian.

The oversight Guardians Council vets all candidates to ensure they hold fast to Iran's Islamic values, and the overwhelming number of hopefuls are expected to be rejected when it announces a final candidate list after May 16.

The conservative-dominated council ruled out all but four of the 238 people who tried to run in the 1997 presidential election.

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Former guards C-in-C says he will not stand in elections

BBC Monitoring Service
May 6, 2001

Text of report in English by Iranian news agency IRNA

Tehran, 6 May: Mohsen Reza'i, the former chief of the elite Islamic Revolution's Guards Corps, has said he is not intending to stand as a contender in the June presidential elections.

Press had already reported that he was considering to stand as a hopeful in the next presidential elections.

"I am waiting to see what plans President Mohammad Khatami has in mind" in order to decide on my participation, the Persian daily Aftab-e Yazd had quoted him as saying.

Reza'i told the students news agency, ISNA, that his recent statements were aimed to drive the political scene of the country out of deadlock.

"I wanted to attract the public opinion, as well as the attention of political pundits, to main issues of the elections so that they do not merely wait to see whether President Mohammad Khatami was participating in the electoral race or not," ISNA cited him as saying.

Reza'i recently blasted President Mohammad Khatami's silence over whether he will stand for re-election and accused him of misrepresenting the nation's unemployment numbers, as well as growth rates.

Reza'i warned that if the moderate cleric tried to distance himself "from the people and from Islam, we will in turn distance ourselves from you".

On Friday [4 May], Khatami put an end to months of speculations on his decision and registered as a hopeful in the next presidential elections.

Reza'i predicted that Khatami would face a myriad of problems if elected again, saying: "Increasing unemployment, widening state debts, insecurity, social corruption and drug-trafficking, as well as internal disputes inside the rulership [as received]," would be his main challenges in the next four years.

Khatami on Friday said he would have preferred not to run and instead "serve the nation and the people" in some other capacity.

"The origin of my doubts was the future and concern about the future of the revolution and the nation and I am still concerned," the 57-year-old cleric said.

A record 357 candidates have registered so far for the June election and more are still expected to file their papers at the Interior Ministry before the registration closes on Sunday [6 May].

So far, several prominent figures, among them city councillor Ebrahim Asgharzadeh, the dean of the Islamic Azad University [Open University], Abdollah Jasbi, vice-president and the head of Iran physical training organization, Mostafa Hashemi-Taba, as well as former Tehran MP, Hasan Ghaffurifard, have stepped forward to pose a challenge to Khatami.

"The announcement of Khatami's candidacy Friday convinced me even more to play a more serious role in this election," the 46-year-old Asgharzadeh told reporters after filing his election papers.

Former Labour Minister Ahmad Tavakkoli on Sunday handed over his nomination papers at the Interior Ministry.

Immediately after closure of the registrations, the 12-member oversight Guardian Council will start studying the record of the hopefuls and has five days to declare the names of the eligible candidates.

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Over 800 bid for Iran presidential election

TEHRAN, May 6 (Reuters) - A record 817 people have signed up to run in Iran's presidential elections next month, the official IRNA news agency reported on Sunday. But only a handful are expected to be cleared to stand in the June 8 polls by the conservative Guardian Council, which screens aspirants according to strict Islamic criteria.

The council approved only four of some 240 people who bid for the presidency in the last election in 1997. Reformist President Mohammad Khatami is seeking re-election and is widely expected to win in the absence of any serious challenger from the rival conservative camp.

Some members of Khatami's cabinet, including Defence Minister Admiral Ali Shamkhani, are among the hopefuls, as are an array of low-key conservative personalities.

The popular Khatami, deeply frustrated by the conservative opposition to his liberal reform programme, has said he is running reluctantly.

A conservative clampdown has seen some key allies of Khatami removed from office, sympathetic newspapers banned and fellow reformers jailed.

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Senior Qom clerics issue communique on presidential elections

BBC Monitoring Service
May 6, 2001

Text of report in English by Iranian news agency IRNA

Qom, 6 May: The Association of Instructor Alims teaching at e [as received] Qom Seminary schools [Qom Theological Seminary Lecturers' Association] issued a communique Saturday [5 May], reflecting their viewpoints regarding the upcoming presidential elections.

The Islamic Republic of Iran is referred to in the statement as a strong tree that was planted 23 years ago by the hands of the Iranians, led by the late Imam Khomeyni.

Presence of masses during the 8th presidential elections is encouraged in a part of the three-page communique, as obeying the late Imam's request regarding the nation's strong presence at all elections polls.

"Such a strong presence would depress the enemies of Islamic system and annul [as received] all their plots," say the Alims of the Qom Seminary. "It will also strengthen the foundations of our national sovereignty, which was reiterated in the supreme leader, Ayatollah [Ali] Khamene'i's new year message," they add.

Chanting "deviated mottoes" in order to take advantage of the religious tendencies of the faithful revolutionary Iranians "in order to secure certain factional tendencies" is demoted in a paragraph of the communique [sentence as received].

The Alims have condemned propagating for the elections as a referendum in which one interpretation of Islam would prove more popular compared to another, a referendum in which the people's real intentions regarding the ruling system would be highlighted, incompetence of the religious administration and so on [sentence as received].

They have then asked: "What could the real intentions of those who propose such initiatives possibly be?"

The communique suggests the leftist presidential hopefuls to focus on poverty, unemployment, corruption and favouritism instead, which are the people's real problems, according to this certain group of the Qom Seminary clerics.

They have further warned the political parties that resort to such propagation, as promising more democratic conditions to the people, that not only the people will not be inclined towards them any longer if they would not abandon such policies, but the masses would get bored and leave them alone, too [sentence as received].

The Alims have requested the pious, reputable and prestigious personalities to nominate themselves for the president's post and to fully elaborate their viewpoints for the nation so that the ground would be paved for truly election [as received] of the very best (Aslah) candidate by the nation.

The communique has encouraged the candidates not to promise the people to achieve goals in their favour that are beyond the candidates' capabilities. They have also warned the candidates not to chant anti-Islamic slogans and not to promise impractical, unscientific or ambitious plans.

"In your encounters with various social strata, particularly the women and the youth, keep in mind that the people have not forgotten your past performance and they would critically judge your present slogans and act impartially," say the Alims.

The main reason for unwillingness of certain mighty rightist [as received] potential candidates during the current registration period is attributed to the "wrong propagation strategies" adopted by their political rivals, "which resulted in ruining their good political reputation."

The Alims have praised the Guardian Councils' role in all phases of the previous and present elections and encouraged the GC [Guardian Council] to perform their legal duties resolutely, "thus dispelling the people's serious worries and safeguarding their trust."

The Association of Instructor Alims of the Qom Seminary has, at the end, promised the Hezbollahi ummah [nation] that they would in their future communiqu\es refer to the exact specifications of the candidate they have in mind as the "Aslah" nominee.

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Khatami Seeks Reprise of Reform Ideas in Iran

The Los Angeles Times
By Michael Slackman, Azadeh Moaveni, Special to The Times

Election: Embattled president turns filing formality into a powerful political event as he renews commitments.

May 5, 2001

TEHRAN--Iranian President Mohammad Khatami announced Friday his bid for reelection, despite the popular reformer's own reluctance and mounting pressure from Islamic hard-liners who have thwarted his programs, shut down institutions that support him and punished many of his allies.

With just two days left before the deadline to file, the soft-spoken cleric turned an administrative formality into a powerful political event. After filling out the requisite paperwork, Khatami gave a short, tear-filled speech at the Interior Ministry laying out both his anxieties and his commitment to the nation's Islam-based democracy. "Four years ago I came with clear ideas. I have had some successes, but a heavy price has been paid for our success," he said in what was for him an uncharacteristically emotional address. "Many people were hurt and many people are in a compromised position."

Though it is widely expected that the 58-year-old president will handily win a second term, the June 8 election is viewed by many here as a watershed for the Islamic Republic. Khatami's efforts to institute political and social reforms have been blocked by conservatives as anathema to the 1979 revolution. Now both sides will be watching the vote to see if Khatami can win an overwhelming mandate and the political capital needed to shepherd through at least some of his ideas. "Personally, I would prefer to be somewhere else," Khatami said Friday, twice wiping tears from his eyes as he spoke. "I thought about whether I could be at the service of the country and the people by being president or by taking up another job. But the reason I decided to run was that I saw the public call for my taking a second term, and a person in my position has to give priority to the people's desires."

Khatami was a relatively unknown cleric in 1997 when he ran as the reform candidate, hardly a threat to the nation's conservative religious leadership, which was squarely behind its own nominee. But Khatami tapped into a wellspring of frustration with the slow pace of change in society and captured 70% of the vote. His victory was followed last year with reform candidates taking control of the parliament, or Majlis.

But the euphoria in the reform camp was short-lived, with control of this nation of nearly 70 million people staying squarely in the hands of the religious leadership. Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has the last word on most matters.

Over the years many of Khatami's aides, advisors and friends have been forced from office, barred from running or jailed. Dozens of newspapers that supported his agenda have been shut down. Last month, 42 members of Iran's main opposition group, the Freedom Movement, were arrested on charges of trying to overthrow the Islamic establishment.

Khatami's announcement drew criticism from conservatives, who said his last-minute bid was a tactic intended to stir up popular emotions. But other observers said it was based on a real inner conflict, though in the end it probably did work to his political benefit. "He had serious doubts and was weighing the pluses and minuses; it wasn't an election ploy," said Hadi Semati, professor of political science at Tehran University. "But it did end up confusing the other side."

Moderate conservatives have said they would like to see Khatami retain his office--so long as he remains politically weak--because he brings the country credibility abroad.

Some Iranians reacted with wary relief. Hearing of Khatami's decision on the radio outside a local market, university student Shirine Safavi wasn't surprised. "I never doubted that he'd run," she said. "I suppose it's positive, because among the candidates he's the best. At least we won't regress."

At least 187 candidates have registered to run for president. Nominations must be approved by the 12-member Guardian Council, which also has the power to veto laws. The council is due to announce the results of its deliberations by May 18. Campaigning begins the next day.

Times staff writer Slackman reported from Cairo and special correspondent Moaveni from Tehran.

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International Press doubts Khatami can deliver the Goods

PARIS 5 May (IPS) In their first reactions to the decision of Iranian president Mohammad Khatami to seek a new mandate, most foreign commentators said Saturday that what counts now in the political battle opposing reformists to their conservatives foes is the number of the votes Mr. Khatami would get on 8 June. Two British dailies, "The Guardian" and "The Financial Times", sharing some Iranian analysts views, warn that "the big conservative groups, resoundingly defeated in parliamentary polls last year, could also decide to call a boycott or to flood the field with numerous candidates in an attempt to dilute the vote for Mr. Khatami and weaken his popular mandate"

Jean Pierre Perrain of the leftist morning daily "Liberation" says Mr. Khatami has used his silence as a "political trump card against his conservative foes".

Like "The Independent" of London, "Liberation" also believe that Khatami might have cut a deal with Ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i, the leader of the regime, who think that without Khatami at the presidential office, their could be an explosion.

"The Guardian" holds a similar view and like other western press adds that Mr. Khatami, if elected, will over the next four years face further opposition from the powerful conservative establishment controlling the judiciary, the armed forces, state media and large segments of the economy.

In Tehran, the conservatives-controlled press played down the announcement. "240 People Seek Presidency", said the evening daily "Keyhan", that speaks for the hard line intelligence community and with much smaller font: I've Come With Ideas Four Years Old"- Khatami.

In a "Note of the Day", the paper accuses the reformists of "ill intention" concerning the limited powers of the President, observing that the Constitution has defined the powers and responsibilities of the president. "But the reformists, by asking him too much, like freeing this or that prisoner, cowardly imply that he has either no power or others limit his responsibilities".

"Resalat", another daily connected to the bazaar and the League of Islamist Associations quotes Mr. Khatami admitting "We Have To Confess To Shortcomings" and, under a big banner, front paged that "The Mission of the Next President is Nothing But Solving People's Difficulties", a them trumpeted daily by the leader, who is visiting the northern Province of Gilan.

"Entekhab", a moderate daily close to the conservatives is the only one to publish a picture of the outgoing President while wiping tears from his face. "Why I Came", was the paper's front page title.

Understandably, reformists papers welcomed the decision, some of them with great enthusiasm, but failing to explain the basic question many Iranian analysts have: With the conservatives adamantly opposed to Mr. Khatami's reforms, how on earth can he implement his promises during the second mandate?

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Monday May 7 7:33 AM ET
Hostage-Taker, Pop Singer Bid for Iran Presidency

TEHRAN (Reuters) - A leading figure in the 1979 U.S. embassy seizure and a pop singer are among some 300 Iranians bidding to run for president in June, Iran's state media reported on Saturday.

Ibrahim Asgharzadeh, a former revolutionary student turned radical reformer who serves on the Tehran city council, said he would work for greater democracy if elected in the June 8 polls.

Asgharzadeh, now an outspoken politician in his forties, helped orchestrate the 1979 raid on the U.S. embassy and the seizure of its staff after the Islamic revolution. Fifty-two Americans were held for 444 days.

He has since considerably moderated his views and advocates improved relations with the United States. He recently called for former American hostages to visit Iran as guests.

Mohammad Hossein Pahlavan, a popular singer better known as Arshia, also joined the race on Saturday. He told reporters on Saturday he could get more votes than President Mohammad Khatami (news - web sites) if the authorities authorized the release of his latest album.

Khatami reluctantly announced on Friday he would stand for re-election, even though he is plagued by doubts over the future of his reforms which are opposed by hardline conservatives.

He is widely expected to win a second term despite repeated setbacks to his campaign for greater freedom and democracy. His conservative opponents seem to be at a loss to produce a heavyweight to challenge him.

``Khatami has only talked in the past four years and done nothing,'' said 30-year-old Arshia, a one-time supporter of the president who campaigned for him in the 1997 election.

``I'm serious about running; I have not come to advertise for my album,'' the ISNA student news agency quoted him as saying.

Some 300 people have signed up to contest the presidency, but only a handful are expected to be cleared to run. Among the unlikely candidates are a street peddler and 22-year-old farmer-philosopher with shoulder-length hair.

The Guardian Council, a conservative body which screens aspirants according to strict Islamic values, approved only four of 238 people who tried to run in the last polls.

The council's head, Ayatollah Ahmad Janati, has said the same thing would happen in this election.

``Some people have nothing to do but to cause headache for us by signing up. The Guardian Council will reject a great many of them,'' he said.

Some of the hopefuls acknowledge they only have a dim chance of being approved, but insist their participation is necessary as an exercise in democracy.

A one-time Khatami ally, reformist Asgharzadeh dismissed concerns that his candidacy might take away votes from the outgoing president.

``Polarizing the vote between Khatami and a conservative opponent is not in the country's interest,'' Asgharzadeh said. ''Khatami has been very popular, but we will witness a change in the voters' attitude at the polls.'

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Second Mohammad Khatami in Iran presidential race

TEHRAN, May 9 (Reuters) - Mohammad Khatami blinked at the unfamiliar camera flashes at his first news conference on Wednesday. But this was not Iran's president, instead another cleric vying to topple his namesake from office in polls next month.

The small, nervous-looking Khatami not only shares the president's name. Like his fellow candidate in the June 8 polls, he is a "seyyed", a descendant of the Prophet Mohammad and also a Hojjat ol-Islam, a mid-ranking Shi'ite cleric. But that is where the similarities stop. Instead of being head of state, the turbaned 34-year-old is an employee of the political and ideological department of the police force.

Reformers backing President Khatami for re-election accuse conservatives of pushing the lesser-known Khatami to stand to try to confuse voters and weaken the president's vote.

Flanked by a spokesman who fielded the more difficult questions posed by reporters and a translator, the younger Khatami insisted he was a candidate in his own right.

"I have no motivation to affect Mr Khatami's votes," he said. "I am not supported by any political faction or party and I have registered as a candidate in order to be at the service of the country."

More than 800 Iranians have registered to run for president next month. The powerful Guardian Council is now screening them to ensure their fitness for office.

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posted May 14, 2001 12:29     Click Here to See the Profile for Vatandoost   Click Here to Email Vatandoost     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Candidates not to be announced until May 18

TEHRAN, May 12 (AFP) - The Guardian Council said Saturday it would not release the final list of candidates approved to stand in the June presidential elections before May 18. The conservative-led council, in a statement cited by state radio, said it would need more time to examine the 46 people who survived the initial round of vetting, which whittled down the more than 800 people who hoped to stand.

The list of eligible candidates will be presented to the interior ministry, which supervises elections, no earlier than Friday, a council spokesman told AFP.

In the last presidential election, in 1997, only four out of 238 people were allowed to run, including current President Mohammad Khatami. The council ensures all candidates for elective office hold fast to Iran's Islamic values.

It has already ruled out more than 40 percent of those hoping to contest parliament seats in a legislative by-election being held the same day as the presidential polls on June 8.

Khatami, who said he was only reluctantly standing for re-election in the face of stiff conservative opposition to his agenda of liberalsing reforms, could face a number of high-profile competitors.

Former labour minister Ahmad Tavakoli, current Defence Minister Rear Admiral Ali Shamkhani, former intelligence minister Ali Fallahian and hostage-taker-turned-reformist Ebrahim Asgharzadeh are all seeking the presidency.

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posted May 14, 2001 12:42     Click Here to See the Profile for Vatandoost   Click Here to Email Vatandoost     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Students divided between backing Khatami, his rival or boycott

By an IPS Correspondent

TEHRAN 13 May (IPS) As the leader-controlled Council of Guardians (CG) continue to review the competence of the 30 out of the 830 men and women who had registered as candidates for the job of presidency, a students organisations urged the population to boycott the 8 June presidential elections, "unless it is turned into a national referendum to decide the future of the Iranian regime".

In a communiqué faxed to Iran Press Service, the National Union of Iranian Students and Alumni's (NUISA), pointing to the "ultimate role" of the CG to approve or reject candidates, a role the Union considers both "illegal and unconstitutional", describes the forthcoming elections as a "masquerade" and "invites" the "great people of Iran" not to take part in such a "parody".

At the same time, the Office to Consolidate Unity (OCU), the largest of all Iranian students organisations decided Saturday by a tiny majority obtained at the end of a long, stormy meeting, to back the presidency of the outgoing President Mohammad Khatami.

[Well-informed sources told Iran Press Service that during the meeting; some members of the Office's Executive Committee had backed the candidacy of Mr. Asqarzadeh and Mohsen Sazegara, two reformist personalities while others would strongly object to supporting Mr. Khatami, joining the stand adopted by NUISA, but at the end, it was decided to give the President "another chance to adopt a firmer line against the "monopolists"]

Formed by the Organisation of Iranian Intellectual Students, the Student's Committee for the Defence of Political Prisoners and the National Organisation of Iranian Collegians, the NUISA, that is led by Mr. Manoochehr Mohammadi also announced a 14 points programs, called for the continuation of "passive resistance" against the "oppressive theocratic rule" as well as for preparing the ground for a national referendum under international control.

Mr. Mohammadi is in prison, serving a 13 and half years jail term. His younger brother, Akbar, had been condemned to 15 years prison, on similar charges of activities against the security of state, offending the leader, undermining Islam and contact with foreign-based Iranian counter-revolutionary organisations, groups and personalities.

"Presidential elections are to be held in a situation where the blade of the Council of Guardians stops dissidents and freedom fighters in the one side while on the other, the leader-led Islamic Judiciary, a tool used to suppress freedoms, jails indiscriminately nationalists, secularists, dissidents and students of all walks, without anybody willing to listen to their complaints", the NUISA said.

"Assassins involved in the serial murders have escaped justice and those who conducted the killings participates shamelessly in the presidential elections while innocent students are being tortured in jails", the statement added in a direct reference to Hojjatoleslam Ali Fallahian, the former Intelligence Minister, believed to have masterminded the assassination of more than a hundred of Iranian dissident politicians and intellectuals.

The statement blasts the "so-called" reformist MMs (Members of Majles) as well as all others around Khatami for having abandoned the jailed students, journalists and political prisoners.

"Despite the President's pledges for reforms and political overtures, not only he nor the reformists have done nothing for the imprisoned dissidents, but they behave in such a manner as if nothing has ever happened. When it became clear to everyone that the root of the serial murders was at the highest echelon of the leadership, again, Mr. Khatami stepped back from the promises he had made, including the identification of the murderers, whoever they might be", the NUISA further reminded.

Continuing its bitter criticism of the embattled President, the secularist organisation say that by keeping silence, Mr. Khatami does in fact collaborate with the ruling radical clerics, becoming not only an "associate of repression and dictatorship, but the main guarantor of the murderer rulers who work from behind the curtain".

The Association consider the Expediency Council that is chaired by former president Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani as another "tool" to suppress Iranian's freedoms and damage the interests of the nation and observes that the Head of the leader-led Islamic Judiciary is "busy destroying further the ruins of the Judiciary power by ordering relentlessly the arrest and torture of students and other freedom fighters and dissidents while letting forces of repression and pressure groups such as Ansar Hezbollah and the hated Basij to attack peaceful gatherings of students.
The statement criticise both the President and the reformists for their silence over the attack of the office of the "Iranian People's Democratic Front" and houses of the Front's leaders as well as against the arrest and torturing of Mr. Heshmatollah Tabarzadi, a well-known outspoken students leader and his detention at an unidentified prison.

"Considering the fact the present dictatorship that rules Iran and its ramifications have no belief and respect for people's basic rights and freedoms and the promised reforms are nothing but a lure, in such conditions, referendum become the people's essential right for closing the chapter of corruption, plundering and totalitarianism", the statement says.

Announcing its decision to boycott the presidential elections and urging the people to do the same, the NUISA once again objects to the vetting of candidates by the Council of Guardians, a process that it considers as the "apartheid rule of twelve people over an entire nation" before presenting a 14 points political-social platform that demands:

1) The unconditional release from jails of all political prisoners without exception;

2) Full freedom of the press and expression

3) Full freedom for political parties and unions and the creation of a sound atmosphere for their free activities;

4) Abolition of the Council of the Guardians;

5) Abolition of the Expediency Council;

6) Full independence of the Judiciary;

7) The return to homeland of all Iranians who have emigrated, without any discrimination of their religion or political ideology;

8) Respect of everyone's religious believes and stopping abuse of the faith;

9) Abolition of the system of apartheid and discrimination, dividing the Iranians into first and second class citizens;

10) Return to all Iranian women's their usurped rights in every respect;

11) Proclamation of equality between all Iranians, regardless of their ethnic, faith or sex;

12) Abolition of all the Foundations, particularly that of the Deprived (Mostaz'afan), that are sucking the blood of the Iranian people and loot their wealth;

13) Disbanding all pressure groups and organisations of oppression and repression, such as the Basij, the Ansar Hezbollah, as well as all other terror organisations of inside and outside the country;

14) And finally, the preparation of a nation-wide referendum, under the control of United Nations and independent international observers in co-operation with all Iranian political parties, giving the Iranian people the possibility to express freely its choice of the regime.

Realising that under present conditions, the proposed referendum would and could not be held, the NUISA calls on the Iranian people, particularly the students to continue the "passive resistance" until the "uprooting of the "black pest" in Iran.

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posted May 15, 2001 13:02     Click Here to See the Profile for Vatandoost   Click Here to Email Vatandoost     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Woman fights for poll right

Jon Hemming

Tehran, May 14 (Reuters)- Iranian presidential hopeful Farah Khosravi is likely to be struck off the list of candidates for the June 8 election simply because she is a woman. But the soft-spoken civil servant is not ready to go without a fight.

The hardline Guardian Council, the powerful 12-man watchdog body of the Islamic Republic, is expected to disqualify her along with 44 other female candidates.

"If women can elect a president, they should also have the right to be elected," Khosravi, dressed in a long grey coat and tightly fitting black headscarf, told Reuters in an interview late on Sunday.

President Mohamad Khatami, seen as almost certain to win the elections, has appointed a woman, former US hostage-taker Masoumeh Ebtekar, as vice-president, but it is by no means clear whether a woman will be permitted to try for the top job.

Dispute hinges on the wording of the constitution. It says candidates must be "political 'rejal'". Rejal, an Arabic word, literally means "men", but some in Iran, including Khosravi, say it can have a wider meaning.

"Like 'man' in English, it can mean mankind or humanity," she says.

As well as being 'rejal', would-be heads of state must be good Shi'ite Muslims and loyal to the ideals of the 22-year-old Islamic Republic.

The Guardian Council, made up of conservative clerics and lawyers, has the task of weeding out candidates it judges do not fit the presidential bill.

The council has already said it has rejected all but 30 of the more than 800 hopefuls who put themselves forward for the polls, but has not yet announced who is in, and who is out.

No reasons for rejection required

Like Azam Taleqani, a woman who was barred from 1997 presidential polls, Khosravi is unlikely to be told explicitly by the council that it is her sex which disqualifies her.

When it does make its decision known, the hardline body does not have to state the reasons for its rejections.

"I have twice registered as a candidate for parliament and the Guardian Council did not reject me then," she said. "So for the presidency, the only issue is being a woman.

"If they reject me, we will not just sit back in resignation, we will follow up this issue. The constitution has to be clarified on this point."

Iranian women enjoy a relatively high status compared with their sisters in much of the rest of the Islamic world. Most women work, some have high-powered managerial jobs, but many complain of prejudice from macho Iranian men who see them as wives or mothers and little else.

Khosravi said Iranian women's lot had improved since the 1979 revolution, describing Islamic garb and headscarves not as restrictions on women but as making them more confident in society.

"This is an Islamic country and Islamic regulations must be respected," she said on the headscarf issue. "I am not saying they should be enforced in a fanatical manner but in a just and reasonable manner."

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posted May 16, 2001 09:53     Click Here to See the Profile for Vatandoost   Click Here to Email Vatandoost     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Iran woman candidate pulls out of election race

TEHRAN, May 15 (Reuters) - The most prominent woman to put herself forward for Iran's presidential elections next month pulled out of the race on Tuesday, the official IRNA news agency said.

Farah Khosravi made the decision to step down from the June 8 polls with only three days left before the powerful Guardian Council watchdog has to announce its decision on which candidates are eligible to stand.

President Mohammad Khatami is seen as a clear favourite to win the election, but is seeking a strong popular mandate to help him overcome opposition from the conservative establishment to his efforts to reform Iran.

Though Iran has a woman vice-president and a number of women members of parliament, it is not clear whether women are allowed to run for president.

The constitution says candidates must be political 'rejal', an Arabic word literally meaning "men", but Khosravi argued it could also mean "people".

The hardline Guardian Council, the 12-man watchdog body of the Islamic Republic, was never likely to agree. Khosravi and 44 women hopefuls were always expected to be disqualified.

But the junior civil servant had vowed she would not go without a fight.

"If they reject me, we will not just sit back in resignation, we will follow up this issue. The constitution has to be clarified on this point," she said on Sunday.

The council has said it has rejected all but 30 of the more than 800 hopefuls who put themselves forward for the polls, but has not yet announced who is in and who is out.

Khosravi's backers said she had withdrawn from the polls as a result of attacks from political opponents.

"As the result of political invective against her by power-mongers and with respect to the present day political circumstances, Farah Khosravi has given up her intention to run for office," IRNA quoted a statement by the small party she represented as saying.

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posted May 16, 2001 09:58     Click Here to See the Profile for Vatandoost   Click Here to Email Vatandoost     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Police Chief Calls For Election Calm, Warns Against "Provocations"

The Tehran Times
May 15, 2001

TEHRAN Tehran police Chief Brigadier Mohsen Ansari here on Tuesday called for security and calm during the campaigning for the June 8 presidential elections and warned against any probable "provocations".

Police in the capital have tasked some 10,000 experienced personnel with maintaining security and peace during the elections, he said, adding that this would guarantee a massive public turnout in the ballot boxes.

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