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The Signal From Iran: No Thaw in U.S. Ties

Times Staff Writer

Conservatives taking control of Iran’s parliament offered a view Tuesday of what might lie ahead: sharp rhetoric toward the United States, a slowdown in the pace of social change and a stiff rebuff of Western concerns that Friday’s elections marked a setback for democracy.

Speaking at a news conference Tuesday, the conservatives provided no specifics on economic policy, or whether they would reduce limited social freedoms enacted in recent years.

Conservative forces won at least 149 seats in the 290-seat parliament, with the ballot count continuing.

The leader of the main conservative coalition, the Developers of Islamic Iran, told reporters there would be no thaw in relations with the U.S. until Washington took the first step and recognized Iran’s Islamic Revolution.

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“We think that while America doesn’t believe in the Islamic Revolution and doesn’t accept it and doesn’t hear the main message of Iran, which is independence, there will be no step [toward dialogue] taking place,” said coalition leader Gholam-Ali Haddad Adel.

The main reformist parties boycotted the polls after the conservative Guardian Council disqualified 2,400 candidates, including 80 incumbent reformist members of parliament. The European Union and the United States have criticized the elections as unfair.

The conservatives Tuesday brushed aside the criticism, calling on Europe and the U.S. to stop interfering in Iran’s business.

“What happened in Iran is an internal matter and we suggest to the EU they should not be preoccupied with our internal matters with prejudice,” said Ahmad Tavakoli, another leading member of the conservative coalition.

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The conservatives have repeatedly stated that their priorities were solving unemployment and addressing poverty. On Tuesday, Haddad Adel said the aim was to turn Iran into a sort of Islamic Japan -- a country with advanced technology and Islamic values. The reformists say the conservatives lack the expertise to resolve the country’s economic problems.

Since reformist President Mohammad Khatami came to power, young people have gained social liberties, a trend many hard-line conservatives find offensive. Young men and women now hold hands in public. Some men wear their hair long and some women wear lipstick and nail polish.

Haddad Adel said he did not think Islamic values meant repression and restriction of freedom.

“We think implementing Islamic rules is freedom,” he said. “We will try to increase Islamic values in society, but we will not do this with force and aggression. We think some of these problems are because of poverty and unemployment.”

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He said the aim was to slow down the pace of change. Many reformist analysts in Iran say the population has become frustrated in recent years with the failure of reformists to deliver promised change fast enough.

“We don’t want to turn [reform] back. We want to slow it down. We are going to adjust the speed of the clock,” Haddad Adel said.


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