Vox Populi in Iran

Diplomatic Dispatches, by Nora Boustany

Washington Post, pA31 - June 6, 1997

Two Iranian Muslim clerics, one Sunni and one Shiite, described lastmonth's election results as a rejection of parliamentary Speaker Ali AkbarNateq-Nouri, the handpicked candidate of Iran's hard-line Islamic leadership,rather than a vote for moderate President-elect Mohammad Khatemi.

In statements here, they both said the concept that clerics have a divineright to rule is un-Islamic. "The regime overestimated its hand inbelieving it had a popular base, and 20 million people rejected them outright,"said Kenneth R. Timmerman, who translated for Ayatollah Mehdi Rouhani,the religious leader of Iranian Shiites in Europe, and Molavi Ali AkbarMollazadeh, a Sunni cleric from the Iranian province of Baluchistan. Timmerman,head of the Washington-based Foundation for Democracy in Iran, escortedRouhani and Mollazadeh around town this week to meetings with U.S. officialsand members of the Iranian community.

Timmerman said his foundation is "committed to help Iranians builda united opposition movement" and that Rouhani is here in part toaddress that goal. Rouhani was invited here by the Jewish Institute forNational Security Affairs and spoke to its board on Islam, Judaism andthe harmony of the monotheistic faiths. The institute is a think tank seekingstronger U.S.-Israeli security ties.