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. Stay away from polls, Iran military told
TEHRAN (AFP) May 30, 2005
The Iranian government on Monday ordered the country's military forces to keep out of the June 17 presidential elections, in a demand aimed primarily at members of a hardline Islamist vigilante milita.

"According to the law and the top commander's directives, armed forces and the police are banned from intervention at the election," said Interior Minister Abdolvahed Mousavi Lari, quoted by the official news agency IRNA.

"The ban equally applies to the Revolutionary Guards, the Basij (militia), the army and law enforcement officers," said Lari, who is responsible for the security of the elections.

The directive means that soldiers and policemen are forbidden to participate in the election campaigns and cannot represent candidates at the polls, said the minister.

His comments appear to have been mainly aimed at the Basij, an Islamist militia whose members are in all institutions, ministries, universities and large state-run industries.

Headed by commanders of the Revolutionary Guards, the Basij acts as the populist guardians of the regime against domestic or foreign "threats".

So far there have been no signs of military interference in the poll ahead of June 17 election, yet there is increasing concern over the militarisation of the regime as four out of the eight contenders have been former senior commanders in the Revolutionary Guards.

Last week President Mohammad Khatami called on the police, the army, the Revolutionary Guards and the Basij to refrain from any type of moves that might be interpreted as interference in the election.

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