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Wednesday, 28 August, 2002, 14:36 GMT 15:36 UK
Khatami moves to increase powers
Iranian President Mohammad Khatami
Khatami criticised anti-reformist measures

Iranian leader Mohammad Khatami says he intends to propose new legislation aimed at strengthening his authority as president.

Iranian spiritual leader Ayatollah Khamenei
Khatami faces opposition from supporters of Ayatollah Khamenei

Speaking at a news conference in the Iranian capital, Tehran, Mr Khatami said certain forces within Iran were trying to limit his authority in contrast to the principles of the constitution.

The president's pro-reformist supporters have been involved in a long running power struggle with Iran's powerful conservative faction, which has forced the closure of reformist newspapers and arrested prominent pro-reform figures.

President Khatami said many of these actions were contrary to the constitution.

Conservative crackdown

This is the first firm indication from President Khatami that he intends to respond to the latest wave of bans and closures by the conservative-dominated judiciary.

Iranian students demonstrate
Political tensions are high in Iran

Over recent weeks it has closed several more reformist newspapers, arrested a prominent reformist journalist, banned a previously tolerated opposition party - the Freedom Movement - and moved to prosecute some of its leaders.

Pro-reformist MPs who tried to offer moral support to the Freedom Movement later found themselves under attack in the Iranian parliament.

President Khatami has been under increasing pressure from his supporters to fight back.

The main reformist party recently threatened to pull out of government and go into opposition - and some of the president's supporters have pressed him to resign, saying his reform programme is being paralysed by the conservatives.

Khatami 'on offensive'

In a rare news conference, the president appeared to agree with many of their points.

What was the use of a president, he asked, who could not keep his promises?

Until now, he said, he had tried to act delicately to reach a solution through dialogue and consensus.

But unfortunately he had not had much success.

He said his repeated warnings over violations of constitutional rights had gone unheeded; lately there had even been an attempt to raise questions about his own duties.

His comments appear to indicate that President Khatami is finally prepared to go on the offensive, but within certain limits.

He is clearly trying to address concerns within his reformist camp.

But he warned that he was strongly opposed to his supporters pulling out from government.

See also:

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