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Iran Head Apologizes to Candidates

February 9, 2000

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) _ In a pointed show of solidarity, Iran’s moderate president has apologized to candidates who were disqualified by a hard-line election body from this month’s parliamentary polls, a newspaper reported Wednesday.

The affiliations of the disqualified candidates were not immediately known, but Iranian moderates have expressed fears that the supervisory election body, the Guardian Council, would eliminate those who do not fully endorse the policies of hard-liners among the ruling clergy.

``If there are people who feel their rights have been violated in some way, I apologize to them as a humble (civil) servant,″ the Mosharekat daily quoted President Mohammad Khatami as saying during an official function Tuesday.

Earlier Tuesday, the Guardian Council, charged with screening candidates for the Feb. 18 elections, said it had rejected and disqualified 576 applicants from a total of 6,856. It said 6,083 had been approved and 197 had withdrawn their nominations.

Khatami’s comments, although uncommon for a president, were typical of the soft-spoken leader who is extremely popular among Iranians for his efforts to initiate political and social reforms.

The function where Khatami spoke was broadcast on Iran’s state-run radio and television, but Khatami’s apology was not. Mosharekat, which is run by Khatami’s brother, Mohammad Reza, accused the media of censoring the president’s comments.

The elections are turning out to be a battle between reformists allied with Khatami and hard-line clerics, who have lost ground since Khatami took office in 1997, but who still hold a slight majority in the Majlis, or parliament.

The outcome of the elections will determine the future course of reforms launched by Khatami’s administration. The hard-liners 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.

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