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The BBC's John Simpson in Tehran
"President Khatani has got to deliver"
 real 28k

The BBC's Jim Muir
"Times are changing"
 real 28k

Monday, 21 February, 2000, 15:44 GMT
Tehran blow for hardliners

President Khatami
President Khatami and supporters were delighted

Iranian reformers look set for a convincing victory in the race for parliamentary seats in the capital, Tehran.

Pro-reform candidates are leading in 28 of the capital's 30 seats.

The news is a blow to the hardline conservatives, who have already been routed in other parts of the country in the polls for the 290-seat parliament, or Majlis.

This is a clear signal of the Iranian people's interest in modernisation
UK Foreign Secretary Robin Cook
According to nationwide results announced so far, reformists have won 137 seats to the conservatives' 44, with independents taking around 50.

The figures mean reformers are set to oust hardliners from the parliament for the first time since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

President's brother leads

With about 15% of Tehran's more than 3m votes counted, election officials said Mohammad Reza Khatami, the leader of the biggest pro-reform coalition and brother of the president, was in first place.

Former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, the candidate backed by conservatives, was trailing in 27th place. He could still be in the running for one of the four seats to be determined in the second round of voting.

Candidates must poll at least 25% of votes to enter parliament in the first round.

rafsanjani No straight win for former president Rafsanjani
Jamileh Kadivar, the wife of President Mohammad Khatami's moderate culture minister, was second in the capital's polls while the pro-reform brother of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei held third place.

With most results known, the outcome of Friday's elections was being seen as a triumph for President Khatami, whose attempts to push through reforms had previously been blocked by parliament.

In the new parliament, his agenda is expected to include early changes to laws on elections, the press and the judiciary system.

However efforts to implement reforms could still be frustrated by the hardline supreme leader, who has the final word.

Foreign welcome

Western leaders have welcomed the election results.

Portuguese Foreign Minister Jaime Gama, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said: "There is of course still a long road ahead in Iran, but the signals sent by Iranian voters clearly justify the reform path."

"This is a clear signal of the Iranian people's interest in modernisation," UK Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said.

"It is welcome confirmation that our policy of dialogue with Iran is correct," he added.

The German Government welcomed the reformists' gains as "encouraging", and said it was pushing ahead with plans for Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer to visit Tehran, probably in early March.

Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit said anti-secular groups in Turkey would no longer see the Iranian Islamic revolution as a source of inspiration. He said he hoped Iran would no longer attempt to export the revolution to other countries.

The United States welcomed the strong showing by moderates, saying the Iranian people had shown they wanted "openness and engagement".

Israel, too, issued a cautious welcome.

Rout in the provinces

During the campaign, conservatives warned that the principles of the 1979 Islamic Revolution would receive a fatal blow if the reformers were victorious.

khamenei Iran's supreme leader could still veto reform efforts
The hardliners had hoped to appeal to voters in provincial areas, but it did not happen.

Results from the provinces gave President Khatami's supporters two seats for every one held by the conservatives.

The conservatives failed to win a single seat in the provincial centres of Isfahan, Shiraz, Mashhad and Bandar Abbas.

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See also:
21 Feb 00 |  Media reports
Print media triumphs in Iranian elections
21 Feb 00 |  Middle East
Iranian vote finds warm response
21 Feb 00 |  Middle East
Analysis: Obstacles to change
20 Feb 00 |  Middle East
Reformist prisoner released on leave
18 Feb 00 |  Middle East
In pictures: Iran goes to the polls
11 Feb 00 |  Middle East
Khatami urges reformist landslide

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