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Last Updated: Monday, 20 September, 2004, 13:28 GMT 14:28 UK
Iran to vote on investment veto
President Mohammad Khatami
President Khatami's economic plans have been blocked
Iran's conservative parliament has fast-tracked a bill which would give it a veto over foreign investment.

The legislation - which would apply to holdings of more than 49% and would be backdated to 20 March 2004 - is now set to come up for a vote on Tuesday.

Its language singles out airports and telecoms deals for special attention.

The government of President Mohammad Khatami, which backs increased foreign investment, said it could do little to block the move.

"The government frankly opposes the bill, but it is obliged to implement any law passed by parliament," Abdollah Ramezanzadeh, the cabinet secretary, told AFP.

"The proposed bill would paralyse the foreign policy apparatus and those economic apparatuses with dealings abroad."

Thrown out

The bill's progress comes just four months after an Austrian-Turkish consortium was ejected from the airport it had been contracted to build and run.

Tepe-Akfen-Vie (TAV) had spent $15m (8.4m) on Tehran's Imam Khomeini Airport before Revolutionary Guards shut it down in May, saying that TAV's business with Israel made its presence a security risk.

The guards have occupied the premises ever since.

Turkcell, Turkey's biggest mobile operator, has been awarded a contract to build a second GSM phone network in Iran with the assistance of Sweden's Ericsson, but has yet to sign the $3bn deal.

Turkcell, too, is accused by hardliners in parliament of having business links to Israel.

Stand-off

The bill represents the latest twist in the ongoing power struggle between the parliament, dominated by conservatives since February elections, and the more reform-minded government of President Khatami.

It is currently reviewing a five-year economic plan presented by President Khatami, who has been in office since 1997.

The plan, the original version of which called for privatisation - particularly of banks - and outside investment, had been thrown out by the Guardian Council, a religious legislative watchdog.

The Council had blocked much of the legislation put forward by the previous parliament, a majority of whose members had backed President Khatami.

The argument over investment meant that talks with the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in late July ended without the signing of the investment deals which had been intended as the centrepiece of the visit.




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