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The BBC's John Simpson in Teheran
"Khatami is clearly going to win handsomely on Friday"
 real 56k

The BBC's Jim Muir
"Mr Khatami is expected to score an easy win"
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Tuesday, 5 June, 2001, 13:26 GMT 14:26 UK
Khatami says reform 'inevitable'
Iranian President Mohammad Khatami waves to the press on his way to a news conference
Mr Khatami gave his first full news conference for four years
By Jim Muir in Teheran

Iran's President Mohammad Khatami, who is campaigning for a second term of office, has told his conservative opponents they are standing in the way of inevitable change.

In his first full news conference in four years, Mr Khatami said the process of reform in Iranian society was irreversible.

He called on those eager for change to exercise patience and moderation, despite the fact that his reform programme has been blocked by entrenched conservatives.

There are nine other candidates competing in the election, most of them independent conservatives.

Voting takes place on Friday, with Mr Khatami widely expected to win an easy victory.

The last time Mr Khatami appeared before the press was a month ago when he was registering as a candidate.

At that time, he was tense, emotional to the point of weeping, and refrained from taking questions.

Buoyant and cheerful

But with polling just a matter of days away, it was as a buoyant and cheerful frontrunner in the presidential race that he again appeared before the press.

He even drew a laugh when he mopped his forehead and stressed that he was not crying this time.

An Iranian kisses a poster of the incumbent to show his support for President Khatami
Mr Khatami is widely expected to win easily
The impression he left was of a man quietly determined to continue on the path he believes is Iran's only real option - the path to a democratic civil society in which the people decided their own destiny.

He admitted that reform could have moved more swiftly over the past four years and that inexperience had been a factor complicating the process of institutionalising democracy.

He warned that those who were blocking change could only hold up the inevitable course of history for a short time.

Warning against violence

If they resorted to violence, society would, he said, fall into chaos and even they would not be able to impose their will.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei remains supreme leader
If he won a second term, he said, he would focus on institutionalising the freedoms which are one of the main demands of a huge new generation of young Iranians.

In the closest he has come to actually touting for votes, Mr Khatami said that whoever wins would be more determined to push for the wishes of the people the more votes he got.

It is taken for granted in Iran that Mr Khatami will win.

But the question is whether he will return encouraged and revitalised by a big public endorsement or whether voter apathy and disillusionment with the slow pace of reform will send him back diminished.

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01 Jun 01 | Middle East
Iran election: People and policies
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