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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 January, 2004, 11:44 GMT
Iran MPs defy calls to end sit-in
Protesting Iranian deputies
About 80 deputies are staging a sit-in
Iranian MPs protesting at a decision to ban thousands of reformist from next month's election have rejected a call to end their parliamentary sit-in.

President Mohammed Khatami had urged them to end the sit-in, promising to work to reverse the ruling by the conservative-run Guardian Council.

MP Mohsen Armin vowed to continue until the council backed down over the move.

Parliament's Speaker, Mehdi Karoubi, has accused the council of trying to rig the outcome of February's election.

President Khatami told parliament it had been unjustly treated, and renewed his pledge to defend the rights of the people, and the principals of religious democracy.

All the protesting MPs... unanimously decided to continue the sit-in until we get solid results
MP Mohsen Armin
On Tuesday, he threatened the resignation of his entire administration if the disqualification of 3,500 reformist MPs was not lifted.

He met with the 80 or so protesting MPs, who are now into their fourth day of a sit-in in parliament, at a closed door meeting.

"Khatami wanted us to stop the sit-in so that parliament can carry on with its duties," reformist MP Iradj Nadimi told Reuters news agency after the meeting.

"Khatami thinks there is still a chance to get results from negotiations".


But Mr Armin said that, following discussions, the protesters had rejected the idea.

"A meeting was held to discuss Khatami's proposal to end the sit-in," he said. "All the protesting MPs...unanimously decided to continue the sit-in until we get solid results."

President Mohammad Khatami
Khatami says he is hopeful the decision will be overturned
The 12-member Guardian Council - made up of clerics and Islamic lawyers - is empowered to ensure parliament's actions comply with Islamic principles.

It said it would consider appeals but warned it would not yield to pressure in its consideration of appeals.

Mr Karoubi said he was sure the council would change its mind and qualify on appeal those who had nothing specific against them.

He insisted to parliament that the intensive contacts he and other leaders had been having were producing results.

And he said Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei - whose word is final on any issue - and some council members were against the mass disqualifications.

But he accused the council's vetting committees of planning a systematic disqualification process, constituency by constituency, to ensure reformist candidates could not win.


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