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Iran's Guardians Council rejects bill to boost Khatami's powers

Iran's supervisory Guardians Council has rejected a bill, approved by parliament, to prop up President Mohammad Khatami's powers against legal violations, and sent it back to Majlis for review on the ground that the bill contradicted the Constitution, IRNA reported from Tehran.

Guardians Council, which vets parliament's bills to verify their compliance with the Islamic Sharia law, on Friday cited the bill as falling foul of at least 15 articles of the Constitution.

Among the violations is to entrust power to the president to warn the judiciary on constitutional breaches and mete out punishment if the warning is not heeded, the council said.

"Requiring the Judiciary, tribunals and judges to probe into (certain violations) merely on the request of the president is tantamount to interference in juridical issues and prerogatives of the judiciary," the Guardians Council said.

"The bill on (re-)defining the limits of the Iranian president's responsibilities and prerogatives ... was distinguished as contravening the Constitution in several cases," its public relations office said.

The Iranian president first announced last August his intention to present the bill to the parliament "in order to respond better to the aspirations of the people".

Khatami, who came into power in 1997 on a mandate to establish a civil society and the rule of law, has repeatedly complained of lacking necessary prerogatives to uphold the law, including against the courts' prosecution of journalists and intellectuals.

The bill had received an overwhelming backing of the parliament, pending the Guardians Council's screening before it becomes a full-blown law.

If parliament refuses to make any changes, as demanded by the council, the bill will most probably be submitted to the Expediency Council for arbitration.

Opponents of the bill have denounced it as being contrary to the Constitution and paving the way for dictatorship.

Last month, an official of the supervisory Guardian Council lashed out at the bill, 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 despotism written into this law is very terrible and the next president would not leave any right to judges and nobody could do anything without the president's permission," Mirdamadi went on to say.

Khatami's allies have put on a brave face in the face of this strong opposition, with the government spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh brushing aside speculation that the president may back down on his demand.

"The government cannot retract these bills since it considers them as the least (demand) to defend the people's rights," he told reporters here last month, mentioning the other bill on the electoral law.

Press Wednesday cited a female deputy from Tehran, Fatemeh Haqiqat-Joo, as saying that fifty Iranian MPs were mulling resignation in a bid which they thought could ease up stranglehold on President Khatami's reform camp.

"The reformist MPs' resignation could open the way for people's appropriation of reform issues," she said, adding the the massive walk-out was being contemplated since six months ago, its outcome due to become certain within the next two months.

"If we prove to be inefficient reformers, we will be forced to resign...since the power structure has petrified and the people's chance of appropriating reforms has been taken way," the Persian daily Hambastegi quoted here as saying further.

The move is reformists' most serious backlash to their first loss in village and city councils elections in February, which was blamed on the reform camp's inaction in the face of the rival camp's resentment to any political change.

... Payvand News - 5/9/03 ... --

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