Mahdi Karubi, a cleric close to embattled President Muhammad Khatami made this statement even though his camp is poised for defeat in polls rigged by conservatives.

  

"We consider these elections to be unfair, but have decided to take part because our participation is more productive than our absence," said Mahdi Karubi, a cleric close to embattled President Muhammad Khatami.

  

Karubi's Association of Combatant Clerics is one of the few reformist parties that has chosen not to boycott the polls, although on Sunday the spokesman for the reformist coalition it has joined conceded there was no chance of heading off a conservative victory.

  

Barred

 

The main reformist parties are staying away after a conservative-run political vetting body, the Guardians Council, barred 2300 people - most of them reformists - from even standing in the 20 February polls.

  

They are the Islamic Iran Participation Front (IIPF) which is headed by the brother of President Khatami, and the Organisation of Mujahidin of the Islamic Revolution (OMIR), on the left of the reform camp.

 

"The rights of a lot of people have been trampled on, but this means we should modify the electoral law"

Mahdi Karubi,
speaker, Majlis

The Association of Combatant Clerics is taking part under the banner "Coalition for Iran", a grouping of the few reformers approved to stand and some independents.

 

Karubi said those boycotting the polls "have the right not to take part, but should not campaign for a mass abstention."

  

"The rights of a lot of people have been trampled on, but this means we should modify the electoral law," asserted the Majlis speaker.

  

"If we get or do not get votes, we will continue our activities. The future of reforms depends on the people, and they will continue through different means," added the cleric.

  

Karubi also stood by the president, under fire for failing to deliver on his promise of "Islamic democracy" and widely criticised for being too weak.

  

"Certainly, President Khatami has not achieved all of his objectives, but the climate today is nothing like what it was before he was elected" in 1997, Karubi insisted.