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Sunday, 5 August, 2001, 11:22 GMT 12:22 UK
Compromise sought in Iran crisis
Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, centre, at ceremonies marking the issue of a confirmation decree to President Mohammad Khatami, right; former President Rafsanjani looks on
Khamenei (centre) has overruled many of Khatami's reforms
The speaker of Iran's parliament has proposed a compromise to resolve a dispute between reformists and conservaties that has delayed the swearing-in of President Mohammad Khatami.

Mehdi Karrubi
Karrubi: Frosty response from judiciary
Mehdi Karrubi suggested that a committee should be formed to arbitrate in the row over the appointment of candidates to the powerful Council of Guardians.

Mr Khatami's swearing-in had been due on Sunday, but it was delayed by the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who said there could be no inauguration while the Council of Guardians was incomplete.

Correspondents say Mr Khamenei's intervention - the latest blow in a long-running power struggle between progressives and hardliners - could present Iran with a major constitutional crisis.

Candidates rejected

President Khatami was re-elected to a second term by a landslide in June, and Mr Karrubi is one of his key allies.

Khatami supporters hail his victory in June
Khatami was given a second term by a huge majority
On Saturday the parliament twice rejected candidates proposed by the conservative-dominated judiciary for vacant seats on the Council of Guardians, which supervises elections, and checks that laws are compatible with the constitution and with Islamic teaching.

On Sunday Mr Karrubi suggested parliament and the judiciary should form a joint committee to resolve the problem.

He is reported to have told parliament that this would allow the swearing-in to take place within days.

However, BBC Middle East analyst Roger Hardy says Mr Karrubi's proposal has received a frosty response from the head of the judiciary, Ayatollah Hashemi Shahrudi.

He adds that both sides seem ready to continue the trial of strength.

The Council of Guardians has 12 members, six of whom are appointed by Ayatollah Khamenei himself. The other six are nominated by the judiciary and approved by parliament.

Constitutional first

Mr Khatami is Iran's fifth president elected in the eight elections held since the 1979 revolution.

He received nearly 77% of the vote in June, an increase on the 70% received in 1997.

This is the first time the presidential swearing-in ceremony has been postponed, but the move is apparently not aimed at President Khatami himself.

Our correspondent says the primary targets are reformist MPs who are using every possible occasion to assert their authority against the Council of Guardians who have been creating obstacles for bills passed by parliament.

In a letter to Mr Karrubi announcing the delay, Ayatollah Khamenei indicated his concern that the parliament's tactics were also aimed at challenging his authority.

The BBC's Jane Bennett Powell
"Iran's supreme leader has put things on hold"
See also:

10 Jun 01 | Middle East
Khatami hails landslide victory
08 Jun 01 | Middle East
In pictures: Iran goes to the polls
05 Aug 01 | Middle East
Khamenei blocks the reformists
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