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Political groups cry foul over dissolution of Tehran City Council

Tehran, Jan 15, IRNA -- Several political associations, in a joint statement quoted by the press Wednesday, lashed out at an arbitration panel's dissolution of Tehran City Council, describing the move as a "stain" on President Mohammad Khatami's reform government.

The Vice-President for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Mohammad Ali Abtahi, on Tuesday announced that the Interior Ministry's Board of Arbitration had decided to disband the municipality council because of its "failure to fulfill its administrative" duties.

"This undemocratic and uncivic move has left a stain on Khatami's administration," the statement, signed by pro-reform associations, including the Hambastegi and Islamic Labor parties, said.

The dissolution comes ahead of next month council elections for which over 210,000 candidates, including 1,500 from Tehran, have registered, where 107,000 seats are up for grabs.

Municipal elections, envisaged in the 1979 Islamic Constitution, were first held in 1999 on the back of President Khatami's campaign to promote democracy and build a civil society in Iran.

But Tehran's City Council was dogged by hot-blooded quarrels with the mayor, boiling up to such an extent in which a member of the council accused Mayor Mohammad-Hassan Malek-Madani of being an "opium smoker".

Meanwhile, most of the council sessions were cancelled for lack of quorum, with the issue of building high-rises in the choking over 12-million city being at the heart of the bickering.

Interior Minister Abdolvahed Moussavi-Lari regretted the dissolution, saying existing disputes in the Tehran City Council had led to the decision.

"The truth is that the cancellation of the council's sessions due to existing differences had caused many problems for the people and was further increasing the city's worries," he said.

"Looking after people's affairs is very important and the officials, in order to guarantee people's welfare and their demands, have sometimes to give way to most bitter decisions," the minister added.

"The dissolution of Tehran City Council was definitely not a good news for the country's (city and village) councils," Lari said.

A member of the arbitration panel, Mohsen Torkashvand, said here Wednesday that the reason for the dissolution was the obstinacy shown both by the mayor and members of the City Council.

"This sudden decision was taken against the members of the panel's will and none of the members thought the council would be dissolved this soon," he added.

Tehran mayor on Tuesday accused unnamed "some" of wanting to "make an unchecked use of the city without paying" premiums to the municipality, thus echoing a recent press claim that certain members of the City Council were involved in high-rise building.

"Tehran has grown without any planning or a specific shape. We are not intending any more to sell off the city without taking the views of experts into account," Malek-Madani said.

But political institutions, in their protest statement, hit out at the mayor, accusing him of being "incompetent".

"Is the cost for dismissal of an incompetent and irrelevant mayor so high that an elegy has to be sung for the Iranian democracy?," another part of the statement said.

"This move of the arbitration board which acts in the framework of the reform government has prompted serious questions on the government's sincere pledge to achieve democracy," it added.

"As all supervisors know a lukewarm welcome of the people during registration for (municipality) elections amid fears of an unlively turnout during polls has been seriously threatening the fledgling tree of democracy (in Iran)," the groups warned.

Tehran City Council dissolved, vice-president says

Tehran, Jan 14, IRNA -- The Board of Arbitration disbanded Tehran City Council for its failure to fulfill its legal obligations, Vice President for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Mohammad Ali Abtahi said on Tuesday.

The Board of Arbitration included deputy minister of the interior, deputy of the general prosecutor, deputy head of the judiciary for parliamentary affairs and three members of parliament presided over by Abtahi.

Abtahi said that the Board of Arbitration voted unanimously to disband Tehran City Council due to its failure to hold regular meetings and make decisions about the administrative affairs of he metropolis city.

He said that the Board had tried to maintain the council for the next couple of months until its normal expiry, but, members of the City Council did not heed the recommendations to avoid dissolution.

The City Council was scheduled to impeach Tehran Mayor Mohammad Hassan Malek Madani for his administrative failure in which he was expected to lose his post.

The City Council members favoring the mayor did not take part in the scheduled meeting to avoid such a situation.

... Payvand News - 1/15/03 ... --

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