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Iran's Reformist Gov't May Refuse To Organize Elections

Prague, 26 January 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Iran's reformist government says it may refuse to organize next month's parliamentary elections after hard-liners have disqualified thousands of candidates from standing.

A spokesman said the government cannot sponsor an unfair election. The Guardians Council has banned almost half of 8,200 would-be candidates in the 20 February elections.

Reports also say that many members of parliament are preparing their resignations to protest the ban. Earlier, the Guardians Council rejected parliamentary legislation aimed at limiting the grounds for disallowing candidates in the elections.

Meanwhile in Brussels, European Union foreign ministers today kept plans for a new economic cooperation pact with Iran on hold. Irish Foreign Minister Brian Cowen, speaking for the Irish EU presidency, said the union is now hoping for "free and fair elections."

An EU decision on reviving stalled talks on the pact will probably be taken after the elections.