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Protesting Iranian MPs meet Khatami, Karroubi over electoral row

About 70 MPs have met with President Mohammad Khatami and Parliament Speaker Mehdi Karroubi to reiterate their demands that those 'illegally' disqualified from the forthcoming election are reinstated and the poll is postponed, an MP said, IRNA reported from Tehran.

The MPs, among a group which has held a sit-in in parliament for more than three weeks, also thanked the executive and legislative heads for taking 'favorable stances' in the face of the electoral row, deputy Parliament Speaker Mohammad Reza Khatami said here Tuesday.

"In the meeting, the protesting MPs...stressed on their two key demands that those who have been illegally disqualified are reinstated and the election is postponed," he said.

"They also made it clear to the executive and legislative heads that they will never back down on these two demands and that any resolution in this regard depended on them," Khatami added.

The MP, however, refused to disclose on President Khatami and Karroubi's statements in the meeting.

The sit-in, he said, will continue until Wednesday and the MPs would decide then whether to continue or end it.

"Up to now, those in the sit-in do not regard the election legitimate either in terms of the common law or the Islamic Sharia law and will not participate in it. If the situation changes and the election is postponed, there will be a chance for us to review our decision," Khatami said.

At least 125 MPs have submitted their resignations after their demands for reinstating many of those disqualified were rejected.

The Guardians Council has declared over 2,000 prospective candidates from among more than 8,000 of the nominees as disqualified.

The supervisory body, which vets the candidates as well as parliamentary bills to affirm their compliance with the Islamic Sharia law and the Constitution, has also turned down demands for the election's postponement.

It has disputed that the qualifications of more than 5,200 candidates had been approved so far, which meant there were 19 contestants for each seat of the parliament, where 290 seats are up for grabs.

Karroubi on Sunday called for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's intervention to put an end to the ongoing dispute over the mass disqualifications.

The parliament speaker and President Khatami have also called for 'a fundamental review' of the wholesale disqualifications.

The two officials have described the rejections as 'unworthy of the religious and democratic establishment' of the Islamic Republic and called for 'healthy, free and competitive elections'.

"We announce again that an election in which about 190 of the seats are impossible to be contested and the rest are screened in a way to boost the chances of a certain persuasion is unworthy of the religious and democratic establishment," they have said.

Khatami, however, has pledged that the elections will go ahead according to schedule in a 'healthy, free and competitive' environment.

"To shut down the elections means to shut down democracy and God does not want such a thing for our people," he has said.

He has also appealed to all political groups to stay calm and move in the framework of the law and avoid doing anything which may lead to tensions.

... Payvand News - 2/3/04 ... --

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