HC Deb 27 January 2004 vol 417 cc158-9
13. Julie Morgan (Cardiff, North) (Lab)

What discussions he has had with the European Union about the barring of reformist candidates by the Council of Guardians in Iran. [150699]

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Jack Straw)

Iran was discussed at yesterday's Foreign Ministers Council in Brussels, which I attended. A unanimous statement was issued, calling for free and fair elections in Iran. I also discussed the matter with President Khatami and Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi when I met them both in Davos last Wednesday.

Julie Morgan

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is essential for the bar on reformist candidates to be lifted before the February elections to ensure that they are free and fair? What can he do to aid the reformists in Iran?

Mr. Straw

In the end, the issue has to be resolved internally within Iran. We can do what we did yesterday at the Foreign Ministers Council of the EU, and I hope that a message will go out from both sides of the House today to those who are holding back progress in Iran. The message is that Iran will not be able to meet the expectations of its people unless it becomes a properly functioning democracy, which is not possible while the Guardian Council continues to prohibit a wide range of perfectly decent but reformist candidates.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham) (Con)

In his discussions with the Iranian President, did the right hon. Gentleman inquire, as he could legitimately have done, why among the 3,500 candidates disbarred from standing for election was the President's own brother?

Mr. Straw

We took that as read, but it demonstrates the gulf that exists between the majority of elected parliamentarians and office holders, including President Khatami, and the unelected individuals running the entirely non-democratic Guardian Council.

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