Wed, Dec 20, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Hardliners trailing in Tehran elections

TOUGH TALK President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said possible UN Security Council sanctions would not stop Tehran from pursuing its uranium enrichment program

AGENCIES , TEHRAN AND KERMANSHAH, IRAN AND MOSCOW

Ultra-conservative allies of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are trailing moderate technocrats and reformists in elections for Tehran's city council, according to the latest figures reported by state television yesterday.

Allies of moderate conservative mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf were on course to be the biggest faction on the 15-member council with a total of eight seats, according to partial results based on 32 percent of the 2.2 million ballots.

Four reformists were in line for seats, a marked improvement from the last local elections in February 2003 when they lost all their members on the formerly reformist-dominated council.

Only two candidates from Ahmadinejad's "Sweet Scent of Service" list were in the top 15, including his sister Parvin who was trailing in 10th place. The reformists were placed in third, eighth, ninth and 11th positions.

Pro-Ahmadinejad candidates were in 10th and 14th position. Independent candidate Ali Reza Dabir, a wrestling champion close to the technocratic Qalibaf, was in sixth place.

The race was being led by the current head of Tehran City Council Mehdi Chamran and former police chief Morteza Talaie, both allies of Qalibaf.

The results for Tehran's municipal council, seen as a bellwether of future political trends, were among the most closely watched of Iran's elections on Friday.

Dominated by reformists until 2003, it has since been under the complete control of conservatives.

Reformists have complained about the slow pace of the vote counting.

In other developments, Ahmadinejad said yesterday that possible UN Security Council sanctions would not stop Iran from pursuing its uranium enrichment program.

The latest UN draft resolution on the matter would order all countries to ban the supply of specified materials and technology to Iran that could contribute to Iran's nuclear and missile programs. It also would impose a travel ban and asset freeze on key companies and individuals in the country's nuclear and missile programs.

"A nation whose youth have been able to achieve the nuclear fuel cycle with empty hands -- rest assured that it will be able to capture other peaks of [progress]," Ahmadinejad told a large crowd in the western city of Kermanshah.

He again warned Britain, France and Germany that Iran will consider their support for any sanctions as an act of hostility.

``These three European countries should know that if they insist on preventing the Iranian nation from its path, the Iranian nation will consider their behavior as enmity and an act of hostility, and will change its behavior towards them accordingly,'' Ahmadinejad said.

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said yesterday a new draft council resolution on Iran largely met Moscow's concerns and could become the basis of a consensus decision.

"The new resolution prepared by the EU3 [European big three] that is now being discussed in the Security Council has to a large extent taken into account our approaches," Lavrov told Interfax in an interview.

"We are counting on ... being able to come to a consensus decision in the UN Security Council that will prompt the Iranians to sit down to negotiations and provide active and full cooperation with the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] on all the remaining questions relating to Iran's nuclear activity," he said.

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