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Conservatives fight election results, delay approval until April

TEHRAN, March 18 (AFP) - The results of Iran's February municipal elections will not be approved by the conservative-dominated supervisory board until late April, press reports said Thursday, amid a continuing bid to annul the election of five leading reformers in Tehran.

Ali Mohajedi Savoji, the hardliner who heads the election supervisory committee, told reporters that the board will not announce the results before April 20 and reiterated that the five in question had failed to meet the board's criteria.

"The five failed to turn in their resignations from their posts before the elections," he said, quoted by the official news agency IRNA, adding that "any person with any number of votes can be eliminated if he is found to have been unqualified."

But the reformist Mostafa Tadjzadeh, deputy interior minister in charge of the polling, told the English-language Iran News that their election would stand.

"Insofar as the interior ministry is concerned, the issue of meeting qualification criteria by candidates is long since over and done with," he said.

He said the ministry now must "safeguard the votes of the people."

The five, including former interior minister Abdollah Nuri, the leading vote-getter in Tehran, are supporters of reformist President Mohammad Khatami and have come under fire by conservatives attempting to reverse the sweeping victory by reformers in the February 26 vote.

Pro-Khatami candidates swept all 15 seats at stake on the Tehran municipal council and made significant gains in major cities nationwide, including Isfahan and Shiraz.

The municipal elections were the first in Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution and have been seen as a key indicator of the relative strength of the reformist and conservative camps ahead of next year's parliamentary elections.


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