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Report: Iranian Government Says Time Not Ripe For Elections

Tehran, 1 February 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Iran's political crisis appeared to take a new turn tonight with a report that the government has decided that the time is not ripe for elections.

IRNA news agency reports Interior Minister Mussavi Lari told an emergency cabinet meeting that the country's governors had assessed that conditions are not present for appropriate elections.

IRNA said the cabinet agreed that the present date for the parliamentary elections -- 20 February -- should be kept only if those elections could be free.

The cabinet said that despite a maximum of goodwill shown by the government, all efforts had failed to make the country's conservative clergy revise bans on thousands of election candidates.

The crisis springs from the decision of the Guardians Council to diqualify several thousand candidates as unfit for the upcoming election. Most of those banned are reformers.

More than 100 Iranian deputies resigned yesterday in protest at the Guardians Council's actions (see More Than 100 Iranian Reformists Resign From Parliament In Protest).