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Sunday, 4 March, 2001, 10:48 GMT Key Khatami ally jailed

An Iranian court has sentenced the Deputy Interior Minister, Mostafa Tajzadeh, to one year in jail on charges of vote-rigging in last year's parliamentary elections.

The sentence was handed down by Tehran's administrative court, in addition to a 39-month ban on holding public office and a six-year ban on overseeing elections.

It means Mr Tajzadeh, a close ally of the reformist President Mohammad Khatami, will be barred from his appointed role of organising presidential elections in June.

He was found guilty of "complicity in electoral fraud" during the February 2000 election, when reformists were swept to power in the Majlis, or parliament.

The court also sentenced Tehran governor Ayatollahi Azarmi to 18 months imprisonment, and banned him from holding office for 23 months after convicting him on similar charges.

Power struggle

A power struggle has developed in Iran since hard-liners under the leadership of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei lost control of the parliament for the first time since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

The hard-liners control the courts and other key institutions, and have jailed several of President Khatami's important allies.

They have also closed down more than 30 publications, most of them pro-democracy newspapers.

June's presidential elections are widely expected to be another showdown between the two factions.

Tuesday, 6 March, 2001, 17:24 GMT Khatami 'unsure' about re-election

President Khatami's reforms are under threat By Sadeq Saba

A senior reformist politician in Iran says the actions of the conservative-controlled courts in jailing prominent allies of President Mohammad Khatami may persuade the president not to run for a second term in June's elections.

Behzad Nabavi, who is vice-speaker of parliament and a close ally of Mr Khatami, says the president believed it was pointless to stand for re-election if hardline conservatives used their hold on other levers of power to thwart his reforms.

Mr Nabavi's comments follow the jailing at the weekend of the deputy interior minister, Mostafa Tajzadeh, who was due to oversee the presidential election in June.

It is generally believed that if President Khatami finally decides not to seek re-election in three months' time, it will have serious consequences for the future of the Islamic Republic.

'Political crisis'

He has come under intense pressure from some of his own pro-reform supporters to step aside in protest against the conservative offensive against his reform programme.

Mr Nabavi, who is a close ally of the Iranian president, said the president had many reasons not to seek re-election.

During the past four years, he pointed out, conservatives have created what he termed a political crisis for the government every nine days.

Sunday, 8 April, 2001, 07:28 GMT 08:28 UK Iran swoop on opposition figures

The arrests will be a further blow to supporters of reform By Jim Muir in Tehran

More than 30 members of Iran's liberal opposition are reported to have been arrested in the capital Tehran and several other cities.

Those detained are said to be connected with the Freedom Movement - an opposition group which is formally banned but, until recently, largely tolerated.

The judiciary said those arrested were accused of overthrowing the regime but it did not give the names or the number arrested.

Newspapers and sources close to the Freedom Movement said around 30 people were detained.

Prominent figures

Among them are reported to be the son-in-law and the nephew of the late Mehdi Bazar Gan.

He founded the Freedom Movement and was briefly the country's first prime minister after the revolution in 1979.

Another prominent figure said to have been arrested was Hashem Sabaghian.

He headed the committee which welcomed Ayatollah Khamenei back from exile in 1979, and was interior minister in the first revolutionary government.

Other arrests

These new arrests come a month after more than 20 other liberal opposition figures were detained in Tehran.

Some have since been released.

But the judiciary have said the group will be charged with plotting to overthrow the Islamic regime by infiltrating legitimate reformist groups, abusing the media and co-operating with opposition groups in exile.

Coming in the context of rising tension with the approach of presidential elections in June, the arrests are being seen by reformists as part of a campaign by hardline conservatives to undermine and discredit then.

The judiciary is widely seen as a stronghold of the hardliners.

Since last year, dozens of reformist newspapers have been summarily shut down, and numerous reformist figures have been prosecuted and jailed.

Saturday, 9 June, 2001, 07:52 GMT 08:52 UK Khatami heads for crushing victory

Women turned out to vote in large numbers Early returns from Iran's presidential election suggest an overwhelming mandate for the reformist incumbent, Mohammad Khatami.

With nine million ballots counted so far, Mr Khatami has secured around 79% of the vote - an even higher proportion than in his 1997 landslide victory.

Mr Khatami's supporters are hoping he wins the massive victory he needs to strengthen his hand against the hardliners who have been blocking his social and political reforms.

The exact turnout has yet to be announced, but polling booths stayed open for up to five hours longer than planned to allow long queues of electors to register their votes.

People were still being turned away when they closed at midnight (1930 GMT).

Ex-pat vote

In Washington, US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the high turnout demonstrated a longing for change.

"The turnout in large numbers seems to indicate that there's a great desire for freedom, for openness, for the rule of law, for better lives for the Iranian people and their children," he said.

"It's our hope that those voices will be heard and that the wishes of the voters be respected."