First Published: 2004-02-03

'Important meeting' imminent on Iran crisis

Iranian authorities ban first planned student demonstration against barring of reformist election candidates.


Middle East Online

The announcement came from Mohammad Reza Khatami

TEHRAN - The head of Iran's leading reformist party said on Tuesday an "important meeting" would soon be held, feeding speculation that supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei could intervene in the political crisis over the February 20 parliamentary elections.

The student agency ISNA reported that Mohammad Reza Khatami, leader of the Islamic Iran Participation Front (IIPF), announced the meeting after having talks with his brother President Mohammad Khatami and parliamentary speaker Mehdi Karoubi. He did not say whom the meeting would involve.

Another agency, the semi-official Ilna which is close to the reformist movement, said the two men would soon meet Iran's supreme leader.

At the weekend, referring to the impasse between conservatives and reformists over the elections and facing the resignation of 125 MPs, Karoubi had urged Khamenei to intervene.

Iran, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Islamic Republic, plunged into crisis on January 11 when the conservative Guardians Council vetting body barred some 3,500 would-be candidates out of around 8,000. Most were reformists, banned for an alleged lack of respect for Islam and the constitution.

Subsequently, the Council - ordered to carry out a review by Khamenei - reinstated 1,160 in a drawn-out appeals process, but some 80 sitting MPs, prominent pro-reform figures and allies of the embattled president remained barred.

Reformists, who believe they will lose their control of parliament and the government if the elections go ahead on February 20, want them postponed. The conservatives say they must proceed as planned.

Mohammad Reza Khatami, whose party said Monday it would boycott the elections, said he and Karoubi met some of the rebellious MPs on Tuesday. The MPs urged them to keep up their refusal to go along with a February 20 poll. They had also again demanded that barred candidates be allowed to stand, saying they had been rejected "illegally".

President Khatami and the government have not specifically said they would not organise elections on February 20. "This government will only organise elections which are free, fair and open," the president said Saturday.

Meanwhile, Iranian authorities have banned the first planned student protest against the wholesale barring of reformist election candidates, ISNA said Tuesday, quoting the Tehran governor's office.

"No gathering will be allowed outside the entrance of Tehran university," the agency quoted Ali Taala, director of political and security affairs for the Tehran region as saying.

"No authorisation for a rally at that spot has been issued for several years because of traffic problems in the district," he added, implying that a demonstration could be organised in other circumstances.

The pro-democracy Islamic Association of Tehran's branches in the main and medical universities said Sunday they had requested a permit to stage a gathering at the gate of the capital's main campus on Wednesday.

So far students, a driving force behind the embattled reformist movement, have largely kept out of the three-week-old political crisis sparked by powerful conservatives who have disqualified large numbers of reformists from contesting the February 20 elections.

Last week, Iran's main pro-democracy student movement - the Office to Consolidate Unity (OCU) - called for a nationwide boycott of the polls and demanded a referendum on the country's political future.

Last summer, students sparked a nationwide security crackdown when they led anti-regime protests. Since deadly street riots in 1999, authorities have tried to keep student protestors confined to their campuses.


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