TEHRAN, (Reuters) – A hardline senior cleric urged Iranians on Friday to turn out in force for a parliamentary election next week and frustrate the United States and its allies who he said wanted a low turnout.
Ahmad Khatami, a member of the Experts Assembly with the power to appoint or dismiss Iran’s supreme leader, called on people to disappoint Iran’s “enemies” by ensuring a high turnout in the March 14 poll. “Our enemies, especially America, have been trying to discourage Iranian voters,” Khatami told worshippers at Friday prayers at Tehran University. “They hastily issued a third (U.N.) resolution against Iran to influence the turnout,” Khatami said in comments broadcast live on state radio. “But your votes next week will disappoint our enemies and especially America.”
The U.N. Security Council voted on Monday to introduce a third sanctions resolution against Iran over its refusal to halt nuclear work that major world powers fear is aimed at making bombs but which Tehran says is designed to generate electricity.
Iran has dismissed the impact of two previous rounds of sanctions, saying it has a cushion of crude revenues thanks to windfall earnings as the world’s fourth largest oil producer.
As the election draw near, Iran has mounted a media campaign to urge a high turnout, which would show the popularity of hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who won power in 2005 by promising to share oil wealth more fairly.
Ahmadinejad has repeatedly been criticised, even by some of his allies, for his handling of the economy and also his anti-western rhetoric.
Khatami refrained from endorsing any political group competing for the 290-seat assembly, but called on people to vote for anti-western candidates.
“People will vote for those who are against the global arrogance and those who have always fought against America,” the cleric said.
Washington accuses Iran of sponsoring “terrorism” and trying to develop nuclear weapons. Iran denies the charges. The crowd of worshippers broke into repeated chants of “Death to America”, denouncing the Islamic republic’s arch-foe.
Moderates trying to make a comeback in the election complain their chances of expanding their small minority in the parliament have been dashed because a hardline vetting body has barred some of their leading candidates from running.