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IRAN - May 25 - Lawmakers Protest To Ayatollah.

127 reformist MPs, including the brother of Pres. Mohammad Khatami, write an open letter to Supreme Leader Ayat. Ali Khamen'i urging him to stop bodies under his authority from blocking reforms. The letter says: "There must be fundamental changes in the faces or at least the acts of bodies supposed to be impartial". (The constitution gives full authority over all state affairs to the supreme leader, who is considered above criticism). The bodies criticised in the letter are the Guardian Council, which acts as constitutional watchdog, and the Expediency Council, which arbitrates between other arms of government, the judiciary, state-owned television and the armed forces. The Guardian Council has recently blocked two pro-reform bills presented by Khatami that would allow free parliamentary elections and increase presidential powers to stop unconstitutional acts by the judiciary. The twin bills have brought the power struggle between reformists and traditionalists to a deadlock. The reformists' letter says the leader has two options - dictatorship or democracy. A strategy for "establishing and abiding by real democracy" under the present conditions "is at your disposal", the letter reads. "If people, parliament and government are nothing", and the main focus of power is the supreme leader, then "we had better tell this honestly and clearly to people and get rid of all dualities, slogans and meaningful words like democracy and freedom". One of the signatories, who asked not to be named, said the letter was, "in a way, an ultimatum", adding: "The leader as the most powerful figure has to be accountable to what the bodies under his command are doing". He told The FT: "Maybe it's late, but we still see a slim chance to save the country". The political infighting has been inflamed by fears that the US, which has branded Tehran as part of the "axis of evil", might next target the theological establishment in its war against terrorism. The signatories express concern that national security could be at risk because of "political and social gaps coinciding with foreign threats". Pres. Khatami has repeatedly said he will not be able to carry out his promises of reform without the bills.
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Publication:APS Diplomat Recorder
Geographic Code:7IRAN
Date:May 31, 2003
Words:355
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