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  • Mousavi warns of fraud as Iranians vote

    Conservative candidate vows better relations with Arabs

    As Iranians headed to the polls Friday to cast their ballots in Iran's most hotly contested presidential election in years the two leading reformist candidates held a secret meeting and one of them warned of possible fraud after his observers were turned away.

    Mir Hossein Mousavi, Iran's leading moderate candidate, warned in an interview with Al Arabiya of possible vote rigging after some of his representatives were denied access to monitor poll stations.

    Shortly after he expressed his concerns, the two candidates held a hasty meeting in secret and refused to discuss any specifics.

    Allegations of vote rigging

    Mousavi said that revolutionary guards had attempted to prevent his represetnatives from monitoring the polls while also preventing people from voting intervened, and called on authorities to resolve the issue quickly.

    "Presently they have prevented some of our representatives from being present at polling stations and they do not let us monitor (the vote)," Mousavi said. "We expect that officials would solve this problem as soon as possible."

    "I promised people I would protect their votes and now I urge all authorities to be accountable and protect the people's votes," Mousavi told Al Arabiya.

    Mousavi said that the possibility of changing people's vote was "troubling [the] minds" of reformists and Iranians.

    But Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the incumbent, ruled out any possiblility of fraud while the Interior Ministry said candidates' representatives were allowed to monitor the vote at each of the 45,000 polling stations.

    Moderate candidate Mousavi is seen as the main challenger of hardline incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

    I promised people I would protect their votes and now I urge all authorities to be accountable and protect the people's votes

    Mir Hossein Mousavi

    Outside one of Iran's busiest polling stations Seyyed Muhammed Abtahi, Khatamei's former secretary who now heads Karoubi's campaign, predicted the reformists would be victorious in the first round but said that if elections were to enter a second round candidates who had been in competition with each other would have to figure out how to cooperate.

    "I think as we see we can reach results in the first round," Seyyed Muhammed Abtahi told Al Arabiya. But he refused to reveal the purpose of the secret meeting.

    A runoff will be held on June 19 if no single candidate emerges with 50 percent plus one vote on Friday.

    Voter turnout

    "The turnout is massive and unusual for Iranian elections. Those who were silent before are now coming out in huge numbers to vote," Abtahi said.

    If voter turnout exceeds 55 percent in Friday's elections the results are likely to be in favor of reformist candidates Mousavi or Mehdi Karoubi, experts on Iranian affairs said Friday as voting got underway.

    The higher the voter turnout the higher the chances of Iran's reformists to winning

    Hassan Fahs, Al Arabiya

    "The higher the voter turnout the higher the chances of Iran's reformists to winning," said Hassan Fahs, chief of the Al Arabiya’s Tehran bureau.

    Stores, restaurants and public buildings were closed Friday, the start of the Iranian weekend, as Iranians headed to their local mosques and schools that served as polling stations.

    "I am voting for the person whose platform is closest to my ideas," one young woman who only her first name, Ellahyiah, told Al Arabiya but refused to reveal the name of the candidate she voted for.

    Conservative candidate promises improved Arab relations

    Mohsen Rezai, conservative candidate and former chairman of the Revolutionary Guards, told Al Arabiya in an interview Friday that he would work to improve relations with Arab states and "build a lasting peace with [Arab] neighbors that includes political and economic cooperation" in the event of winning elections.

    He added that any differences in views between Iran and Arab states "cannot interfere in conflicts that would undermine our (Arab and Iranian) security and interests," stressing his resolve to create union between Iran and the Gulf like that of the European Union.

    Rezai said his government would create a consortium on uranium enrichment for nuclear energy which would include Gulf states and European countries, stressing that such a consortium "is the main difference between me and Ahmadinejad."

    Rezai added that Saudi Arabia has provided good suggestions to Iran to resolve outstanding issues between them but that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has neglected these suggestions.

    Rezai's candidacy is seen as likely to split the conservative votes as he is likely to be the choice of voters who neither want the moderates nor the incumbent Ahmadinejad