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Last Updated: Saturday, 12 July, 2003, 13:31 GMT 14:31 UK
Iran president offers to quit
President Khatami
President Khatami was first elected in 1997
Iran's reformist President, Mohammad Khatami, has said he will resign if the country's people want him to.

"We are not masters of people but servants of this nation. If this nation says we don't want you, we will go," he was quoted as saying by the government-owned daily, Iran.

The move comes amid growing public dissatisfaction over the elected president's failure to fulfil promises of democratic reforms and a reduction in the power of the unelected hardline Islamic clerics.

About 4,000 people were arrested last month by Iranian security forces following a series of anti-government protests in the capital, Tehran.

President Khatami made the comments in a speech in Karaj, west of the capital Tehran, on Thursday.

It was the first time that he had publicly offered to resign.

State-run television and radio did not run the sections of the speech which dealt with a possible resignation.

The Associated Press news agency says the president's hopes for a compromise with conservatives have been dashed after the hardline Guardian Council, which vets all parliamentary legislation, rejected two key reform bills.

The bills would have given greater powers to President Khatami to prevent constitutional violations and bar the Guardian Council from disqualifying candidates in legislative and presidential elections.

'Religious dictatorship'

The president has also has come under attack from Iranian liberals.

Philosopher Abdolkarim Soroush accused him of failing to push for reforms since he was elected in May 1997.

In a letter to the president, he wrote: "Students and intellectuals are not thirsty for power or wealth but freedom and rejection of dictatorship in the name of religion."

His comments were echoed by another liberal Islamic thinker, Mohsen Kadivar.

In an interview with the BBC's Persian section, he said Mr Khatami's resignation was the best service he could offer to the Iranian people.

If a politician was unable to fulfil his promises, said Mr Kadivar, the most honourable thing for him to do was to give up power.

He warned the Iranian president that if he continued to remain in office, he would gradually be seen by the nation as part of the repressive government.

Both Mr Soroush and Mr Kadivar are among Mr Khatami's closest friends and allies.




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