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Khamenei call raises truce hope

Tehran, Jan. 15 (Reuters): Iranian government officials are likely to drop their threats to resign after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei moved to defuse a row over parliamentary elections, government sources said today.

The resignation threats by officials and 27 state governors were made in protest at the hardline Guardian Council’s decision to disqualify almost half of the 8,200 candidates hoping to run in parliamentary elections on February 20. “To avoid tension in the country, those who have threatened to quit will drop their resignation threats,” said an official among at least 16 members of President Mohammad Khatami’s cabinet who said this week they would step down.

Most of those disqualified were reformist allies of Khatami, including more than 80 members of the 290-seat parliament.

The confrontation between reformists and hardliners, the most dramatic since Khatami carried reformers to power in a 1997 presidential poll, prompted a sit-in protest by dozens of MPs and calls for the elections to be postponed. But Khamenei, using his overriding political authority, moved to defuse the crisis yesterday, calling on the Guardian Council to review the cases of those barred from standing.

A second government source said that following Khamenei’s comments, “those who had threatened to resign will have to withdraw”. He said that President Khatami would in any case not accept their resignations.

In a further sign that tension was easing, protesting reformists cancelled a large rally scheduled for today, and the dozens of MPs staging a sit-in at parliament said they welcomed Khamenei’s intervention.

“The leader’s remarks were the first positive sign of solving the problem and it should stop this illegal process,” Mohammad Reza Khatami, the President’s brother and one of the disqualified MPs, told reporters.

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