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Khatami Warns Against Low Election Turnout In Iran

Tehran, 17 February 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Iranian President Mohammad Khatami yesterday urged Iranians to vote in the 20 February parliamentary elections. Khatami warned that a low turnout could mean a minority gaining control of Iran, which would not be in its interests.

The official IRNA news agency quoted Khatami as saying even though people might not be able to vote for candidates they would like to vote for, they can still vote against those they don't want to win. He added that voters should pick candidates with views close to their own.

Earlier, Mehdi Karoubi, the pro-reform speaker of Iran's parliament, defended taking part in the parliamentary elections, which reformists say have been effectively rigged.

He admitted that the upcoming vote will be unfair because of mass disqualifications. But he said the "freeness" of the vote is a matter of debate, as people are free to vote if they want to, or not.

Some reformist parties are boycotting the election after the hard-line Guardians Council blacklisted some 2,500 candidates -- most of them reformists -- from standing in the poll.