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Iran: President Khatami will not back down on bid to boost power

Government spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh on Wednesday brushed aside speculation that President Mohammad Khatami may back down on his bid to boost presidential prerogatives in the face of certain political parties' opposition, IRNA reported from Tehran.

Stating that he needed more power to carry out his constitutional obligations, the Iranian president first announced last August his intention to present two bills to the parliament to prop up his powers "in order to respond better to the aspirations of the people".

"The government cannot retract these bills since it considers them as the least (demand) to defend the people's rights," Ramezanzadeh told reporters here.

Last Tuesday, the Iranian parliament gave its final blessing to the last articles of the bill on presidential power, enabling the president to warn any of the three constitutional powers against any violation and mete out punishment if his warnings are not heeded.

But to become a full-blown law, the bill must be screened by the Guardians Council amid opponent claims that it was contrary to the Constitution and risked giving way to dictatorship. If rejected the arbitrative Guardians Council must decide on the fate of the bill.

The government spokesman hoped that the twin "bills will be approved in view of the measures being taken and there will be no need to refer them to the Guardians Council".

Last Friday, a Guardians Council official lashed out at President Khatami's bill on propping up presidential powers, describing it dangerously "unconstitutional" and pledging to veto it.

"They (architects of the bill) have envisaged the president some power which is contrary to the Constitution," director general of the Guardians Council's information office, Hassan Mirdamadi, told a meeting of the supervisory body in the central Yazd province.

"This is very dangerous and God willing the Guardians Council will strongly and firmly confront this bill and oppose it," he said.

The council vets the parliament's decisions to verify their compliance with the Islamic Sharia law and the Constitution.

The other bill on the electoral law seeks to dispense with the need for Guardians Council to vet candidates for key state posts.

"The two bills underline defending the Constitution and preventing from its breach as well as defending the people's general rights," Ramezanzadeh said.

Khatami has repeatedly complained of lacking necessary prerogatives to uphold the law, including against the courts' prosecution of journalists and intellectuals.

He has also brushed aside the 'ballyhoo' made by the opponents of the bill, saying he was hopeful about the Guardians Council's cooperation in passing it.

Vice President for legal and parliamentary affairs, Mohammad Ali Abtahi, said last Tuesday that he saw no reason for the oversight body to veto the bill.

"On the advice of Mr. Khatami, the bill to outline presidential powers has been devised with care and scruple. Thus, there is no reason for the Guardians Council to reject it," Abtahi said.

"All the constitutional principles have been attended in this bill, including qualms that it may lead to dictatorship," he added.

Abtahi said that Parliament Speaker Mehdi Karroubi was due to discuss the bill with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

... Payvand News - 4/17/03 ... --

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