Fear ahead of Iran poll

IRANIANS reacted with anger and fear yesterday to a rare string of bomb attacks that killed nine people and wounded more than 70 ahead of presidential elections.

Officials have blamed Sunday’s attacks on exiled opposition groups, such as the People’s Mujahideen Organisation, and foreign agents seeking to deter Iranians from voting.

The death toll from an evening blast in central Tehran rose to two, said Ali Aghamohammadi, Supreme National Security Council spokesman. Two people remained on the critical list.

Engineers in the southwestern oil city of Ahvaz were repairing water pipes, power lines and buildings damaged in four blasts outside state offices that killed seven people and wounded 70. “I’m not going to vote. I’m afraid of another explosion. Friday will be a very dangerous day,” said Ahmad Ali Yacoub, a 36-year-old government employee.

Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, bidding to regain the presidency he held from 1989 to 1997, said the attacks were by opponents of the Islamic revolution.

“They are trying to intimidate the people because they think the people would not participate in the elections,” he said.

Opinion polls show Mr Rafsanjani leading in the race to replace reformist President Mohammad Khatami, who failed to overcome resistance to reform in his eight years in office. Despite disenchantment among Iran’s youthful population of 67 million, interest in the contest has picked up with the reinstatement of reformer Mostafa Moin and the conservative vote split between five contenders.

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