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The BBC's Jim Muir in Tehran
"The struggle is still very far from over"
 real 28k

Saturday, 27 May, 2000, 10:59 GMT 11:59 UK
Iran parliament enters new era
Pro-reform supporters
Iranian women supporters of President Khatami
Iran's new reformist-dominated parliament has been urged to avoid "artificial political crises" by President Mohammad Khatami.

He was setting out goals for the new deputies, who were taking their seats for the first time since the reform movement's election landslide in February.

The 290-seat assembly, or Majlis, should "help the government... co-operate perfectly to heal Iran's sick economy and establish social justice," said President Khatami.

President Mohammed Khatami
President Khatami still faces opposition
The inauguration was also attended by prominent conservative and former president Hashemi Rafsanjani, who unexpectedly decided two days ago not to take his seat in the body.

BBC Tehran correspondent Jim Muir says that President Khatami should now have a parliament that will co-operate enthusiastically with his reform plans, instead of blocking them, as the outgoing, conservative-dominated legislature did.

But the hardline conservatives still hold many of the levers of real power, not least the Council of Guardians, which has to approve laws passed by parliament.

The defeated right-wing factions have mounted a counter-attack on many fronts since their election defeat.

One of the reformists most prominent leaders was shot down in the street by hardline fanatics. Said Hajjarian was badly injured but he survived.

Press crackdown

At least 17 reformist newspapers were shut down by the conservative judiciary. Reformist journalists and other liberal figures were jailed.

Hashemi Rafsanjani
Former President Rafsanjani: Unexpected exit
Until recently there was even some doubt that the reformist-dominated new parliament would actually be allowed to convene. But now it is going ahead, amid sighs of relief from the reformists themselves.

Our correspondent says that while the reformists will be relieved that the new parliament is convening at last, the past three months will have convinced them that the struggle with the hardliners is still far from over.

Much may depend on who ends up in the important post of Speaker of the new chamber.

The reformists are so far divided over whom to support for the job. The candidate regarded as most likely is Mehdi Karroubi, a cleric who was Speaker once before, though a former minister, Behzad Nabavi, also has strong support.

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See also:

25 May 00 | Middle East
Rafsanjani gives up his seat
24 May 00 | Middle East
Iran's hardline parliament bows out
21 May 00 | Middle East
Iran reformer to appeal sentence
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