Iran Nuclear NewsIran celebrates election by ending nuclear talks

Iran celebrates election by ending nuclear talks

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Sunday Telegraph: Hardliners in the Iranian regime celebrated victory in parliamentary elections by toughening their stance against the West, firmly rejecting any possibility of talks over the country’s controversial nuclear programme. The Sunday Telegraph

By Kay Biouki in Tehran and Gethin Chamberlain

Hardliners in the Iranian regime celebrated victory in parliamentary elections by toughening their stance against the West, firmly rejecting any possibility of talks over the country’s controversial nuclear programme.

Buoyed by the early results from Friday’s parliamentary elections, the government said talks with the group of five permanent UN Security Council members and Germany were at an end.

The statement will come as a blow to those who believed the group could still broker a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear crisis, but reflects the strength of the conservative vote.

With more than half the results counted for the 290 seat parliament, conservatives had taken a 108 to 33 seat lead over their reformist opponents.

If the results are repeated in the remaining seats, it would mark a significant victory for the hardliners aligned with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

After months of jostling for position among the ranks of rival conservatives, the IRGC is now poised to take over from Iran’s clerics as the dominant force in the country’s parliament.

In recent weeks some more moderate clerics have found themselves the subject of unprecedented public criticism over their lifestyles, undermining their electoral chances.

Many reformist supporters boycotted the polls, complaining that their candidates had been barred from standing, but the government claimed that turnout still amounted to more than 60 per cent of those entitled to vote.

For Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president who faces elections next year, the results offered a mixed message.

The rise of the IRGC is generally regarded as being in his favour – although he has faced some criticism from its ranks for backsliding – but there were also gains for more moderate conservatives, who have been critical of his handling of the ailing Iranian economy.

Their success could increase the chances of an alternative conservative challenge to Mr Ahmadinejad next year, with Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, the mayor of Tehran, and Ali Larijani, the former nuclear negotiator who left his job after falling out with the president, both mentioned as possible rival candidates.

Reformists were hoping to at least form an effective minority bloc, larger than their approximately 40 seats in the outgoing parliament, but the results pointed to how deeply the movement was hurt when the unelected Guardian Council used its powers to disqualify 1,700 candidates on grounds of insufficient loyalty to Islam or Iran’s 1979 revolution.

Many of their supporters did not bother to vote but others said they felt they had to make an effort.

“The situation in the country has gone from bad to worse,” said Araman Mohebi, a 25 year old businessman in Tehran’s main bazaar.

“I voted for the reformists because something is better than nothing and I hope they could bring some changes to the suffering of the people.

“I don’t like Ahmadinejad and I will never vote for him in the next presidential election either. He has made us face danger with the world and also suffer from high inflation inside the country.”

Those concerns about the state of the economy may account for the failure of the hardliners to secure a more resounding victory.

With the Iranian New Year just around the corner, people busy making final preparations for the festive season could not fail to notice the increase in prices.

“Look at the prices at this new year,” said Hossein Hashemi, 55, outside a polling station in Tehran.

“How many times can they go up in a short while? I have great difficulties to buy new clothes and presents for my wife and children and they want me to vote for some people who I don’t know at all. What difference would this make?

“We all know that the results have been fixed before and the conservatives will win the election. They only want to use us and nothing else.”

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