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Standoff Between Guardians Council And Iranian Government Sharpens

Tehran, 27 January 2004 (RFE/RL) -- There were several developments today in a standoff in Iran between the conservative Guardians Council and reformist government ministers and parliamentarians.

The state-run Islamic Republic News Agency quoted President Mohammad Khatami as saying that he is refusing to accept the protest resignations of 24 ministers and most of the country's six vice presidents.

A prominent dissident cleric, Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, issued a statement from Qom urging the Guardians Council's 12 members to back off from the dispute.

Parliament speaker Mehdi Karroubi said that leaders from both camps reached an understanding yesterday that will defuse the issue. Other reformists expressed skepticism.

The Guardians Council set off the impasse two weeks ago when it banned thousands of prospective candidates for parliament from running in elections next month. Council spokesman Ebrahim Azizi said today that the council has since reinstated some 650 candidates, but the unrest continues.