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Polls In Iran To Stay Open For Fourth Extra Hour

Tehran, 20 February 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Iran's Interior Ministry has ordered polling stations around the country to stay open for a fourth additional hour in the country's parliamentary elections.

Initially, the ministry ordered polling stations to extend their opening times by one hour, two, and then three hours. The ministry attributed the new, four-hour extension to "high turnout."

Earlier today Iranian President Mohammad Khatami called on voters to participate massively in the poll to create, in his words, a "surprise."

"What is important now is that people participate in the elections. If there is a high turnout, despite all the predictions and propaganda, once again people can bring about a surprise."

Conservative hard-liners are widely expected to win the election from which a large number of reformist candidates have been disqualified. Many reformists have called for an election boycott as a low turnout would undermine the authority of the result.

Earlier today, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said those who are trying to deter young people from voting are enemies of the Islamic republic.