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Five Iranian moderates barred from Tehran council: paper

TEHRAN, March 15 (AFP) - The election of five moderates to the Tehran municipal council has been annulled, a newspaper said Monday, as Iran's conservatives stepped up the pressure to overturn the sweeping victory by reformers in last month's elections.

Former interior minister Abdollah Nuri and four other backers of reformist President Mohammad Khatami will not to be allowed to take their seats on the council by orders of the conservative-dominated Supervision Board, the pro-government newspaper Sobh-e-Emrouz said.

It said Nuri, one of Iran's several vice-presidents, as well as Ahmad Hakimi-Pour and Mohammad Atrianfar had been disqualified because they had not resigned from their official posts before standing as candidates.

The election of Sobh-e-Emrouz director and former deputy intelligence minister Said Hajarian was annulled due to the "ambiguous nature" of his written commitment to the constitutional principle of the supreme rule of the nation's spiritual leader.

Ebrahim Asgharzadeh, a leader among the radical 1979 hostage-takers at the US embassy in Tehran, was disqualified because of his judicial record with a revolutionary court, the paper said.

The Supervision Board, under control of parliamentary conservatives, had threatened to bar the men ahead of the February 26 elections but they were allowed to stand after last-minute intervention by Khatami.

Conservative efforts to overturn the election results began in earnest last week when influential MP Ahmad Rasoolinejad called for the impeachment of Interior Minister Abdol-Vahed Mussavi-Lari over his ministry's handling of the elections.

Rasoolinejad said there had been "thousands of complaints" filed with election authorities about the polling, which he said was rife with illegalities.

Mussavi-Lari had earlier raised the ire of conservatives by saying that the new municipal officials elected across the country will provide "strong support" for Khatami's reformist government.

The results of the vote "paved the way for popular participation in the administration of the society's affairs," he said.

But conservative judiciary chief Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi warned local officials to keep well away from the broader political struggle nationwide between reformers and conservatives.

"You were elected as local officials and should concern yourselves with local problems, and keep out of factional and partisan disputes," he said.

Khatami supporters swept all 15 of the muncipal council seats at stake in Tehran and scored impressive wins in the provinces during the first municipal elections in Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

The decisive victory has raised expectations that reformers will take control of the conservative-dominated parliament in next spring's parliamentary elections.

It will also put Khatami supporters in mayor's offices nationwide following a bitterly contested vote that was seen as a crucial test for the president's democratic reforms as well as a key indicator of the relative popularity of both camps ahead of next year's parliamentary elections.


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