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Iranian hard-liners annul another election won by a moderate

TEHRAN, Iran, April 26, 2000 (AP) - Hard-liners have stepped up pressure on President Mohammad Khatami, annulling another election result in a legislative district won by a moderate Khatami ally.

Alarmed by the sound beating they took from reformists in February's legislative elections, Iranian hard-liners are trying to roll back Khatami's reforms. In addition to annulling election results in 12 districts where seats were won by Khatami allies, they have closed 13 pro-democracy publications and jailed two journalists in recent weeks.

The crackdown reflects the considerable power hard-liners in the ruling clergy still wield in Iran.

State-run radio said yesterday that Iran's Guardian Council had annulled the election of reformist Mohammad Farrokhi to represent the town of Jiroft in southern Kerman province. In addition, the radio quoted a statement from the hard-line council as saying that final results for Tehran, where the pro-Khatami Interior Ministry says the reformists won 29 of 30 seats, have been delayed.

After yesterday's statement was broadcast on radio, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, head of the Guardian Council, denied that there was any plan to annul results in Tehran, the capital. But the official Islamic Republic News Agency quoted Jannati as saying that "there are irregularities which may lead to minor changes."

Two of the 12 seats from the districts where reformists' victories have been annulled have been given to hard-liners. The others are to be contested in a new election.

At several universities around Iran, students demonstrated yesterday against the newspaper closures and in favor of Khatami.

In the southern city of Shiraz, more than 3,000 students rallied at the Medical Science University, journalists there said.

At the Khajeh Naseer Technical University in Tehran, more than 300 students cut classes and assembled outside the main building. Speakers addressed the demonstrators through loudspeakers.

"Stand firm, Khatami, stand firm, Khatami," the young men and women chanted as they sat under the morning sun.

On the green iron fence around the university in Tehran hung the last issues of the 13 publications that were shut down Sunday and Monday by order of Iran's hard-line judiciary. The newspapers had turned Khatami, who speaks of democracy and the rule of law, into a national hero. Only two reformist newspapers - Mosharekat and Bayan - escaped the ban. It was not clear why. The ban on a 14th newspaper, Sobh-e-Emrooz, was lifted late Monday, but the reason was unclear.

Since his election in 1997, Khatami has sought to loosen restrictions that have been in place since Islamic hard-liners seized power in Iran in the 1979 revolution. He has been opposed by conservative clerics.