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The BBC's Jim Muir reports
"The elimination's were not as harsh as in the past"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 9 February, 2000, 18:23 GMT
Khatami apologises to barred candidates

Mohammad-Reza Khatami: reformers have pact in provinces IIPF head Mohammad-Reza Khatami: Pact in provinces


Iranian President Mohammad Khatami has apologised to candidates disqualified from the 18 February parliamentary election by conservative clerics and lawyers.

The Guardian Council, dominated by hardliners, announced on Tuesday that 6,083 out of a list of 6,856 applicants would be allowed to stand.

President Khatami's apology to the 576 rejected candidates, many of whom are moderates, was described by correspondents as a gesture of solidarity.

Ayatollahs Khomeini and Khamenei preside over an election message to voters Ayatollahs Khomeini and Khamenei preside over an election message to voters
"If there are people who feel their rights have been violated in some way, I apologise to them as a humble servant," the Mosharekat daily quoted the president as saying during an official function.

Another 197 candidates withdrew of their own accord.

Supporters of President Khatami's reforms are hoping the election will enable them to break the conservatives' narrow majority in parliament.

Electoral pact

The two leading pro-reform parties, the Iran Islamic Participation Front (IIPF) and the Executives of Construction, are fielding joint candidates in more than 200 constituencies.

The head of the IIPF, Mohammad-Reza Khatami, brother of the president, acknowledged on Wednesday that there were difficulties agreeing on joint candidates in the capital, Tehran.

Iranians walk past a poster urging them to vote Iranians are being urged to vote
"If we are not as united in Tehran, that is because there is less threat from the Right. In the provinces, we are together," he said.

He said the full list of candidates would be published on Thursday - the first day of campaigning.

Once the brief election campaign begins posters are expected to pop up overnight across the country.

Voters face a huge range of choice, with the more than 6,000 candidates vying for places in the expanded 290-seat parliament.

The outcome of the elections will determine the future course of reforms launched by President Khatami's administration.

The hardliners are opposed to deviating from the strict Islamic codes of conduct in social and political life that have been in force since the clergy took power in the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Burial of mortar victim

Meanwhile, the burial took place on Wednesday of a man who died on Saturday in a mortar attack by insurgents in the capital, Tehran.

State radio reported that the funeral took place amid chants of "Death to the hypocrites" and "Death to America".

The rebel Mujahedeen Khalq group, based in northern Iraq, claimed responsibility for the attack on government buildings in the city centre.

President Khatami condemned the attack, describing it as an evil "act of vengeance".
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Full coverage of Iran's landmark elections and the battle for reform
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