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Iran: Rafsanjani proposes referendum for resumption of ties with US

Iran's former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said in Tehran on Saturday Iran's resumption of ties with the US could be put to a referendum, IRNA reported.

Rafsanjani, talking to `Rahbord' (Strategy) periodical, said the problem of Iran's relations with the US could be resolved through a referendum once the Parliament (Majlis) and the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei approve it.

"The other solution is that the problem is referred to Expediency Council (EC) and we discuss it and announce what is expedient. Of course, the leader should approve this too," Rafsanjani, who is the EC chairman, said.

The council arbitrates in disputes between the parliament and the supervisory Guardian Council which vets parliamentary bills to verify their compliance with the Islamic Sharia law and the Constitution.

"When an issue turns into a problem, it is referred to the (Expediency) Council to make a decision on that," Rafsanjani said.

"When we approve an issue we send it to the leader who usually accepts it. And if the issue of relations with the US and Egypt is considered a problem, the Council can study it," Rahbord quoted him as saying further.

Since April 7, 1980 Iran has had no diplomatic relations with the US which severed its ties with Tehran after the Students Following the Line of Imam stormed the American embassy (known as the Den of Espionage) here and held its staff hostage.

Rafsanjani said under the Constitution the supreme leader is authorized to decide on the `general policies' of the country, stressing however that Ayatollah Khamenei should declare those policies after counsulting with the EC.

Yet, he stressed, the issue of Iran's resumption of ties with the US and Egypt, is not included among Iran's general policies.

The EC chairman further stressed that the supreme leader does not directly interfere in the decision-making regarding the Constitution, or even the performance of state institutions, except in very special cases.

"It is clear that the problems with the US and Egypt do exist, and we have had these problems from the era of the late founder of the Islamic Revolution Imam Khomeini," he said.

"However, the supreme leader has his own considerations toward these cases."

The Islamic Republic severed its ties with Egypt after former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat signed the Camp David peace treaty with the Zionist Israeli regime and sheltered defunct Shah of Iran.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Rafsanjani stressed that certain government institutions, such as the Foreign Ministry, in a certain previous administration used to refer to the supreme leader to decide on important issues, adding that this showed that the ministry's performance was weak.

He said that referring to the supreme leader is `not necessary', stressing that he would naturally interfere in the decision-making of a certain institution whenever he deems it necessary.

Rafsanjani further said the Foreign Ministry is capable of running its own affairs with no need to refer the issues on its agenda to other sources, stressing that the decision-making process in the ministry should be expedited "when it is clear what we are going to do".

He said the Constitution does not oblige state institutions to wait for the decision of other entities, stressing that the institutions should try to avoid delays in decision-making.

"It is true that in the early years after Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution, the experienced experts of the ministry fled the country or were dismissed," Rafsanjani said.

"Then a group of youth took over the affairs of the ministry. But, running the affairs of the ministry requires knowledge, expertise and prudence."

The EC chairman did not rule out that Iran's foreign policy apparatus has made certain mistakes in the past.

"We should not be biased. We have lost many opportunities in the past, we have made inappropriate measures or never made any measure, and we have also delayed in making decisions."

Rafsanjani recalled Imam Khomeini's remarks that the most important religious duties of Iranians could be overlooked whenever the expediency of the system requires so.

"Therefore, whenever it comes to our expediency, we can solve whatever foreign problem which is threatening us from the viewpoint of Islam," he said.

Rafsanjani said Iran's stance of distancing itself from the US is political rather than religious.

"Our ideology is flexible. We can choose our expediency on the basis of Islam. Still, to put the country in jeopardy on the ground that we are acting on an Islamic basis is not at all Islamic," he said.

... Payvand News - 4/12/03 ... --

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