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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 February, 2004, 20:06 GMT
Iranian MPs end sit-in protest
Iranian reformist MP Hossein Ansari-Rad addresses protesters during the sit-in
The protest did not generate overwhelming pressure to end bans
Iranian reformist MPs have called off a mass parliamentary protest but vowed to continue fighting an election ban.

More than 80 members of the outgoing parliament had staged a sit-in for 26 days to express anger at a ban on more than 2,000 would-be candidates.

The deputies, most of whom have been disqualified by conservative vetters, said they would now boycott the polls.

The BBC's Jim Muir in Tehran says the election crisis is coming to a head, with only days left for any resolution.

He says the decision to call off the protest is an admission by the MPs of the failure of their goal for a full reinstatement of all candidates banned by the right-wing Guardians Council.

But he adds that there could still be a way out. With four days left before the council has to produce its final list of candidates there could yet be another intervention from Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Leaders blacklisted

His earlier call for a review of the list of candidates deemed unsuitable for the 20 February poll was followed by a lifting of the ban in more than 1,000 of about 3,500 cases.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei: Appointed for life, overrides all other authorities (pictured above)
Guardian Council: Half chosen by Khamenei, responsible for vetting election candidates and laws
President Mohammad Khatami: Elected for four years, power can be circumscribed by clerics
Parliament: 290 members introduce and pass laws, subject to approval
But the blacklist still included the names of some of the most prominent leaders of the reform movement, including Mohammad Reza Khatami, the president's brother.

"The 20 February elections will not be legal and free. My party will not participate in this election," he said after the sit-in ended.

Without major pro-reform parties, observers say voter turnout is likely to be low and hardline candidates could easily retake control of parliament known as the Majlis.

Mr Khatami said: "This failure damages the whole country, not a particular group. The next parliament won't be democratic, but it doesn't mean that democracy has totally failed in Iran."


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