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Tuesday, 24 September, 2002, 11:46 GMT 12:46 UK
Iran's Khatami wants more powers
President Khatami (right) signs autographs for schoolgirls
Khatami (right) appeals to many young Iranians

Iran's frustrated reformist President Mohammed Khatami has presented a new bill to parliament aimed at enhancing his powers.

It is the second of two proposals which reformists hope will clear the way for the enactment of changes which have been largely blocked by the entrenched hardline minority still holding positions of power.

Iran's spiritual leader Ayatollah Khamenei
Conservatives derive their inspiration from Ayatollah Khamenei

This new bill would give the presidency the power not just to warn officials that they are out of line with the constitution but to do something about it.

Mr Khatami has been increasingly frustrated that his constitutional warnings to the judiciary for example have largely been ignored with reformist newspapers being shut down and liberal figures jailed using procedures he believes are unconstitutional.

Earlier this month he submitted another bill which would curb the election role of the Council of Guardians.

Clash possible

It is a highly conservative body which currently has the ability to vet election candidates.

It has been accused of regularly weeding out anyone it believes to have reformist tendencies.

The problem is that the same council also vets all legislation, so it is thought highly unlikely that it will vote to reduce its own role though it might prove more flexible on the powers of the presidency.

Iranian women emerge from Friday prayers
Reforming strict Islamic social codes are at stake
Much will depend on the position taken by the country's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei from whom the hardliners often take their cue.

The bills are assured of safe passage through the reformist-dominated parliament but if they are then rejected by the Council of Guardians a crisis is bound to ensue.

President Khatami has always said that he would stand down if the reform process ran into the sands and there is increasing talk among the equally frustrated reformists in parliament of pulling out of this system and leaving the hardline minority to their own devices.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jim Muir reports from Tehran
"If he (Khatami) is blocked, he will think about calling a referendum"


See also:

13 Jun 02 | Middle East
04 May 02 | Middle East
29 Apr 02 | Middle East
28 Apr 02 | Middle East
10 Sep 01 | Middle East
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