Monday, May 23, 2005

Iran's Khamenei calls for review of election field

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Monday urged a hardline watchdog to reinstate two reformists barred from the June 17 presidential race after the largest pro-reform party said it would boycott the vote.

The surprise move by Khamenei, who has the last word in all state matters but rarely intervenes openly in political affairs, could offer reformists a lifeline to retain the presidency held by pro-reform cleric Mohammad Khatami since 1997.

It may also damage the chances of front-runner Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a moderate conservative whose message of detente with the West and economic liberalisation appeals to reformist supporters.

Iran must meet basic standards for admission to WTO: White House

Iran must meet basic "commitments" -- including an international ban on nuclear weapons development and transparency in its upcoming presidential election, before it can be admitted to the World Trade Organization, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

McClellan said the White House in March gave its support to a European offer to help Iran gain admittance to the WTO, in exchange for assurances it would abandon its nuclear efforts.

"We expressed support for the European efforts as they worked to reach an agreement with Iran to get Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions, and that was one part of it," McClellan said.

But he added: "Obviously there are certain commitments you have to make when you seek to join the World Trade Organization, and that is something we pointed out at the time as well."