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Report: Khatami proceeds with vote

From CNN Correspondent Kasra Naji

Khatami
Khatami had been under pressure to delay the vote.

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TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) -- Iranian President Mohammed Khatami has decided his government will hold general elections as planned in less than two weeks despite serious reservations about the fairness of the vote, Iran's state news agency reported.

Quoting an informed source, IRNA reported Friday that Khatami wrote a letter to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, saying the government has agreed to the February 20 elections only because of the supreme leader's ruling that the vote proceed as scheduled.

The hardline Guardian Council, whose job it is to approve a list of candidates, has disqualified more than 2,000 reformist candidates. Many reformists have accused the hardliners of staging a "parliamentary coup."

Khatami's letter, also signed by speaker of Iran's parliament, said the disqualifications would reduce motivation for people to vote, IRNA reported.

Over the past two days, the Guardian Council has reinstated 225 of the candidates, but the disqualifications still guarantee a hardline victory in the general election.

Nearly half of the members of parliament have resigned in protest. Many Cabinet ministers and provincial governors also have threatened to resign in protest.

Constitutionally, the Interior Ministry is in charge of organizing the polls, but previously the Cabinet has unanimously resolved not to hold elections that are not free and fair.

In his letter, according to IRNA's informed source, Khatami said that in spite of the Guardian Council's refusal to act on the order of the supreme leader to reinstate many of the candidates, the government would hold elections according to the ruling of the supreme leader.

The Guardian Council's disqualifications sparked protests among lawmakers, who argue that even if the candidates were reinstated immediately, they would not have enough time to campaign. Members of parliament also asked Khatami not to bow to pressures for holding elections in these circumstances.


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