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Europe

EU Voices "Deep Regret" Over Iranian Elections

The EU has criticized Iran's recent parliamentary elections as a "setback for democracy," and said there will be implications for trade relations. The EU opposes the exclusion of reformist candidates in the elections.

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Was it rigged? Iran's leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei placing his vote in last Friday's elections.

There are now two issues which could stall the EU's trade talks with Iran -- the electoral process which saw around 2,500 reformist candidates disqualified from parliamentary elections, and the questions surrounding Iran's nuclear program.

"The resumption (of negotiations)...have for the time being been closely linked to a solution of the nuclear concerns," said EU spokesman Diego de Ojeda. "We are not in the business of imposing new conditions, but, aside from that, it is clear that the electoral process will also be a factor in our deliberations."

De Ojeda told reporters it was clear that Friday's poll had not been held according to international standards. A draft statement agreed prior to Monday's meeting of the EU's 25 current and future foreign ministers voiced "deep regret" at the electoral "interference."

"The Council of EU foreign ministers expressed its deep regret and disappointment that large numbers of candidates were prevented from standing in this year's parliamentary elections...making a genuine democratic choice by the Iranian people impossible," it said.

Low voter turnout

Islamic conservatives won an easy victory over the reformists with a nationwide voting turnout of 50 percent, according to Iran's interior ministry. Iran's Council of Guardians said turnout was closer to 60 percent and accused the interior ministry of "playing with figures" to lower the turnout -- a sensitive issue following the widespread disqualification of liberal candidates.

The Council said many of the candidates had to be disqualified because they were allegedly indifferent to Islam, or had questioned the authority of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Among those banned were around 80 sitting parliamentarians, some of whom were key negotiating partners with the EU. "There will be a cooling off," one senior EU diplomat said. "Our interlocutors were the reformers, and of them essentially only the president and the foreign minister remain."

British foreign minister Jack Straw pointed to the low voter turnout as evidence that the election was unfair, and said the outcome would affect Iran's ties with the EU.

"The results of the elections in Iran will obviously create a new environment for the discussions with Iran to take place," Straw said.

His German colleague, Joschka Fischer, confirmed that the EU had been greatly concerned once it was clear that reformist candidates were being excluded, and said the EU would now have to see what the consequences would be.

But his Spanish counterpart, Ana Palacio, said she hoped that the EU would keep a constructive dialogue going with Iran.

Conditions for trade

Prior to the elections, the EU had linked the resumption of trade talks with Iran to its acceptance of snap inspections of the country's nuclear program, as well as suspension of uranium enrichment. The EU was also pushing Iran to make progress on human rights issues.

The United States has accused Iran of secretly developing nuclear weapons. Iran denies the charges, and says its nuclear program is geared solely toward generating power. The UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is due to release a report later this week on Iran's nuclear activity.

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  • Date 23.02.2004
  • Author DW staff (dc)
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  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/4hqt
  • Date 23.02.2004
  • Author DW staff (dc)
  • Print Print this page
  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/4hqt