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Wednesday, 12 January, 2000, 18:43 GMT
Khamenei's brother attacks reformist purge

Ayatollah Khamenei Ayatollah Khamenei has rebuked critics of the system

By Jim Muir in Iran

The brother of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, has criticised the disqualification of reformist candidates for the general elections by a vetting commission dominated by conservatives.

Hadi Khamenei is himself a member of the reformist camp, while the Ayatollah is generally regarded as tending towards the right.

His criticism came as a leading conservative figure predicted that his faction would continue to dominate parliament after next month's elections.

It is one of the more bizarre manifestations of Iran's clerical democracy that the country's supreme leader has a politically active brother, who has often stridently expressed views that are the reverse of the Ayatollah's.

Only last Saturday, Ayatolla Khamenei rebuked people who had publicly criticised the election vetting process.

Most of the accusations had been levelled by the reformists against the Council of Guardians, the conservative-dominated body which has overall supervision of the elections.

Distorting democracy

Now Hadi Khamenei, has gone against the wishes of the supreme leader by again hitting out in public at the council's disqualification of reformist candidates.

Addressing students at a Tehran university, he said the disqualifications of reformist candidates were distorting the nation's vote and Iranian democracy.

The methods used to evaluate the candidates were, he said, improper and unacceptable.

Nonetheless, he said he did believe that enough reformist candidates had survived the scrutiny to ensure a majority in the new parliament.

New faces, new policies

That assessment was certainly not shared by the head of a right-wing coalition, Mohammad Reza Bahonar.

He told reporters that he expected the balance within the new Majlis (parliament) to be similar to that of the outgoing one, in which the conservatives, helped by independents, form a majority.

But he did expect a large influx of new faces, with new policies and ideas, to meet the demands of the huge new generation of young Iranians.

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