Hardliners annul another poll win by Khatami allies

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The Independent Online

After closing down 13 pro-democracy publications and jailing two journalists, Iran's hardliners are now stepping up pressure on President Mohammad Khatami by annulling a 12th result in recent legislative elections won by his moderate allies.

Hundreds of university students, meanwhile, stayed away from classes in Tehran yesterday to rally behind the liberal Mr Khatami, urging him to stand firm against hardliners who are trying to roll back his reforms in a desperate bid to protect their own rule.

The student protests were prompted by the closure of 14 publications that have turned Mr Khatami, who speaks of democracy and the rule of law, into a national hero. Only two reformist newspapers - Mosharekat and Bayan - escaped the ban. It was not clear why. The ban on a 14th newspaper, Sobh-e-Emrooz, was lifted on Monday for reasons that remained unclear. The paper was in print yesterday.

Sobh-e-Emrooz was managed by Saeed Hajjarian, who survived an assassination attempt on 12 March that many have blamed on hardliners. Yesterday the trial began ofeight men charged with involvement in shooting Mr Hajjarian, who remains in hospital.

In the southern city of Shiraz, all 17 universities are to remain closed today, students said after a rally yesterday attended by more than 3,000.

The crackdown on the press, the arrests and vote annulments reflect the considerable power hardliners in the ruling clergy still wield despite a humiliating defeat in legislative elections last February. The reformist victory alarmed hard-liners and intensified their campaign against Mr Khatami and his allies.

State-run radio said yesterday that the Guardian Council had annulled the election victory of Mohammad Farrokhi, a reformist who had won a seat in the town of Jiroft in the southern Kerman province.

The body has annulled the election results for 11 other seats, all won by Khatami allies.

Also yesterday, a clerical court issued an arrest warrant for Hassan Eshkevari, a pro-reform cleric who attended a recent conference on Iran held in Berlin, where Iranian exiles criticised Tehran's religious government. (AP)