Iran Nixes Decision on Candidates

Iran Nixes Decision on Candidates

By AFSHIN VALINEJAD

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - Iran's Interior Ministry has rejected a hard-line council's decision to disqualify more candidates ahead of this week's legislative elections, calling the decision illegal, a newspaper reported Monday.

"The names of nominees who have been illegally barred from contesting the elections will be included in the lists of candidates for whom voters can vote," Interior Minister Abdolvahed Mousavi Lari was quoted as saying by the daily Hamshahri.

Last month, the hard-line Guardian Council, which vets candidates for Friday's legislative elections, disqualified more than 600 hopefuls, most of them reformists.

Lari, who backs Iran's reformist President Mohammad Khatami, said the council was trying to disqualify 10 more candidates. But he said its decision was invalid because it had not provided reasons for the disqualifications, according to Hamshahri. He did not say whether the 10 were reformists or hard-liners.

Javad Ghadimi Zaker, director-general of elections at the Interior Ministry, said 259 candidates who had been approved have dropped out, leaving 5,824 hopefuls running for the 290 seats of the Majlis, or parliament, the Azad daily reported.

Zaker said 36,080 polling booths have been planned for the polls, and that at least one Interior Ministry inspector would be present at each station, according to Azad.

All Iranians age 16 and over are eligible to vote. The Interior Ministry estimates the size of the electorate at 38.7 million.

The elections are a showdown between candidates calling for more social openness and freedom of speech, and hard-liners who fear the Islamic roots of Iran's 1979 revolution are being forgotten.

The hard-line Kayhan daily, meanwhile, said Monday that a percussion grenade exploded late Sunday outside the house of former Intelligence Minister Ali Fallahian in Isfahan, central Iran. There were no casualties but the bomb shattered the windows of Fallahian's house, it added.

Fallahian is running in the parliamentary election from an Isfahan constituency. Many reformist newspapers hold him responsible for the murder of several opposition writers and intellectuals in 1998.

Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department on Monday said Iran has made improvements in terms of allowing a free press and more diversity among candidates.

"Clearly there is a lively political culture that has developed there," department spokesman James P. Rubin said. "Clearly candidates from different orientations are able to run."

However, Rubin added that the United States would still like to see some changes in Iran and deplored death sentences imposed on three members of the Baha'i religion. The three were arrested in 1997 for violating a government ban on the practice of their religion.


AP-NY-02-14-00 1734EST


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