Dual Loyalties

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Thursday, May 26, 2005

CNN.com - Iran leader urges anti-U.S. vote - May 26, 2005

CNN.com - Iran leader urges anti-U.S. vote - May 26, 2005: "Iran leader urges anti-U.S. vote
Thursday, May 26, 2005 Posted: 2331 GMT (0731 HKT)

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran's supreme leader has called on the people to elect an anti-Western president in the upcoming June elections, accusing Washington of trying to influence the poll.

"Look for a candidate with whom enemy is not satisfied. This is one of the criteria. Americans have begun their absurdities saying who should run and who should not run in the election," Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, speaking to a group of students, said Thursday.

"What is that to you, you ignorants," he said, seeming to direct his comments at the United States. Then, to the students he said: "They (the U.S.) don't know that people will do the opposite of the Americans' wishes."

Iran's Guardian Council on Tuesday reversed its decision to disqualify two reformists from the June 17 presidential election after pressure from Khamenei, who enjoys unlimited powers.

The country's clerical rulers want a high turnout at the election to boost their credibility at a time when the country remains under intense international pressure over its nuclear program.

Before Khamenei intervened, Washington said it was "deeply troubled" by the Council's decision.

U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the "disqualifications are clearly intended to ensure that only those completely acceptable to the hardline regime are presented to the electorate."

Khamenei made his comments Thursday to a group of militant students loyal to the cleric, and broadcast on state-run television in a bid to attract younger voters.

Khamenei said Iran's "executive branch requires youth, power and jubilation. Just look for a competent candidate who supports revolution, religion and justice and is capable of wrestling with different challenges."

The powerful cleric's preference for a younger candidate seems to clash with the widely held view that former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, who just turned 70, was the frontrunner for the post.

Other approved candidates include former national police chief Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf; former radio and television chief Ali Larijani; Tehran Mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; former head of the elite Revolutionary Guards Mohsen Rezaei; and former parliamentary speaker Mahdi Karroubi.

Qalibaf, Rezaei, Larijani and Ahmadinejad are widely seen as Khamenei candidates because of their strong loyalty to him.

The two reformists are former Culture Minister Mostafa Moin, a respected university professor, and Mohsen Mehralizadeh, the vice president in charge of sports.

Moin is the sole candidate of Iran's largest reformist party, the Islamic Iran Participation Front and enjoys popularity among Iran's predominantly young population.

About 48 million Iranians are eligible to vote, and according to some private surveys, only half of them will go to the ballot box."

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