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Reformists under fire again before Iran elections


Tehran : Just 24 hours before the parliamentary elections in Iran, the country’s reformists came under fire again from their conservative opponents over alleged secret links to European Union (EU) diplomats, Fars news agency reported Thursday.

The pro-Ahmadinejad conservative faction has started a new campaign against the reformists, charging them with seeking EU support to put pressure on the government.

The main target of the conservatives is the brother of former president Mohammad Khatami, Mohammad-Reza Khatami, who is accused of having had alleged secret meetings with EU ambassadors and diplomats.

Following the controversy over the meeting with German ambassador Herbert Honsowitz earlier this month, Khatami is also charged with having had several meetings with British diplomats to Tehran.

“We have proof of the meetings with the British diplomats,” said conservative candidate, Ruhollah Hosseinian, who is part of the faction supporting President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry claims not to have been informed about Mohammad-Reza Khatami’s meeting with the German ambassador but in keeping with protocol, foreign ambassadors in Iran only need permission to meet official circles but not political groups.

The reformists are also charged with having the support of the US, which is Iran’s arch foe and is accused of planning to topple the Islamic system.

Conservatives are trying to persuade people not to vote in favour of deputies seeking foreign support and thereby undermining the country’s independence.

Former president Khatami rejected the conservative charges as “political ballyhoo” and said reformists have only tried to distinguish between the American nation and government.

“We have a very critical approach towards the current American government and its presence in the neighbourhood (Iraq and Afghanistan),” said the former president who leads the reformist coalition together with ex-president Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani.

“But we should evaluate who is really responsible for the latest tensions and continued presence of the US (in the region) – definitely not the reformists,” the reformist cleric said referring to Ahmadinejad’s uncompromising nuclear policies and anti-Semitic rhetoric which has increased probability of a military strike against Iran.

More than half of the reformist candidates, including top candidates, have been disqualified by the senate-like Guardian Council for lack of ideological commitment to the Islamic system.

“The most important basis of freedom is allowing the people to decide by themselves about their political destiny and even be allowed the change the political status quo without referring to any force,” Mohammad Khatami said.

Reformists have given up hope of being a serious challenge to the two conservative camps in Friday’s elections but still hope to form at least an effective opposition in the new legislative period.