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Iranian conservative calls for impeachment of interior minister

TEHRAN, March 11 (AFP) - Iranian conservatives stepped up the pressure Thursday to overturn their defeat in last month's municipal elections as an MP called for the impeachment of the interior minister over the handling of the polls.

Interior Minister Abdol-Vahed Mussavi-Lari "must be impeached because he has no intention of abiding by the law," influential conservative MP Ahmad Rasoolinejad said.

"The numerous violations of the law committed by the interior minister and his deputy, Mostafa Tajzadeh, in the course of the elections" necessitate his ouster, he told the English-language Iran News.

Rasoolinejad, a leading member of the conservative-dominated parliament, said there had been "thousands of complaints" filed with election authorities about the February 26 polling, which resulted in sweeping victories by reformers.

He also called on the government to postpone giving its official approval of the results until next month, amid a growing effort by conservatives to reverse their defeat in the polls.

Rasoolinejad lashed out at the ministry's support for moderate and reformist candidates initially barred from standing by the conservative-held elections supervision council but finally allowed to run following an 11th-hour intervention by President Mohammad Khatami.

The reformist president ordered the creation of a "mediation committee" that allowed a number of the candidates to stand, including prominent reformer Abdollah Nuri, who led the voting in Tehran and is well placed to become the capital's next mayor.

Rasoolinejad warned the government's handling of the vote will not be allowed to happen again in next year's crucial parliamentary elections, when reformers have the chance to wrest control of parliament.

Conservatives "will not tolerate a mediation board when deciding on the qualifications of candidates for the next parliamentary elections," he said.

The conservative Qods paper charged Wednesday that voting for the Tehran city council, in which reformers backing Khatami swept all 15 seats, had been rigged and that the election should be declared "null and void."

"Only 30 percent of those eligible participated in the local elections in Tehran," the conservative Tehran Times said Wednesday.

"This nonparticipation should be seriously taken into consideration, particularly by the president," the English-language daily said in a challenge to claims that the vote was a forceful mandate in support of Khatami's pro-reform agenda.

Voter participation in Tehran was actually 40 percent, according to official figures, but still much smaller than expected in the capital, where control of the municipal council was seen as the major prize in the elections.

But the Iran Daily said Wednesday that conservatives were simply refusing to face up to their drubbing in the polls, the first municipal elections in Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

"People quite consciously voted for political reform," it said, adding that the Islamic republic "will continue to move" in that direction.


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