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The BBC's Sadeq Saba
"Prospects for a total crackdown are looming large in reformists minds"
 real 28k

Sunday, 13 August, 2000, 21:01 GMT 22:01 UK
Iranian MPs pledge to continue reform
Hardline conservatives
Hardline conservatives have hit back after losing elections
More than half the deputies in the Iranian parliament have signed an open letter pledging to push ahead with their pro-reform agenda.

It is their first reaction to last week's call by the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, for parliament to suspend its efforts to liberalise the country's press laws.

The letter came as Iran's conservative press court detained an award-winning political satirist, Ebrahim Nabavi, the latest in a series of arrests of journalists viewed as being pro-reform.

A BBC correspondent says the prospect of a total crackdown on the country's reformist movement is looming large in everyone's mind.

Powerless

In their letter, MPs warned the conservative establishment that, if the reform movement failed, society would suffer and the whole Islamic system would be in danger.

Ahmad Zeid-Abadi, a pro-reform journalist
Jailed: Journalist Ahmad Zeid-Abadi is one of the latest to be arrested
But the MPs did not comment on the supreme leader's entitlement to make his intervention last week blocking parliament's moves to repeal draconian press restrictions.

Our correspondent says this indicates they are powerless to challenge Ayatollah Khamenei directly.

On Sunday, it was reported that the press court, which is dominated by conservatives, had issued the detention order against Mr Nabavi after interrogating him on Saturday.

Mr Nabavi was held last year after writing articles denouncing conservatives.

Another journalist, Mohammad Qouchani, was also detained over the weekend, bringing the number of journalists arrested in the past few days to four.

Critical

Row in the majlis
Pro-reform and conservative MPs argued in the majlis after the Ayatollah's intervention
Mr Qouchani was sharply critical of the conservative courts in April after they closed more than 20 newspapers and magazines, most of which supported the reforms of President Khatami.

Since President Khatami's 1997 election, the hardliners have lost considerable power - notably at elections in February when they were routed and lost control of the legislature for the first time since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

But they still retain control of the judiciary, the military and the broadcast media, and are backed by the supreme leader, whose ruling on all matters is final.

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See also:

08 Aug 00 | Media reports
Iranian press back Ayatollah's intervention
07 Aug 00 | Middle East
Journalist arrested in Iran
06 Aug 00 | Middle East
Punch-up over press law
27 May 00 | Middle East
Iran parliament enters new era
02 Feb 00 | Middle East
Democracy Iranian style
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