Iran's President Criticizes Conservatives
By BRIAN MURPHY (AP)
February 11, 2004
In a sharp attack against the vast powers of ruling conservatives, Iran's president on Wednesday called the restriction of political freedoms a "threat to the nation" that could be hard to contain.
The warnings by President Mohammad Khatami - made during events marking the 25th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution - could increase the intense political friction ahead of Feb. 20 parliamentary elections that many reformers plan to boycott.
Khatami bowed to pressure from the powerful theocracy and agreed to hold the elections. But he has described the voting for the 290-seat parliament as unfair because thousands of reformist candidates have been blocked from running.
"Elections are a symbol of democracy if they are performed correctly," Khatami told crowds gathered in a huge square to celebrate the collapse of the Western-backed monarchy in 1979. "If this is restricted, it's a threat to the nation and the system. This threat is difficult to reverse."
The elections have touched off one of Iran's deepest political crises since the revolution.
More than 3,000 pro-reform candidates were originally disqualified by the 12-member Guardian Council, which has the authority to block people seeking high public office. Liberal lawmakers countered with sit-ins and protests. The council later reinstated about 1,100, but reformists said that was insufficient.
A major boycott - urged by a wide-ranging coalition from activists to academics - would likely return control of parliament to conservatives. The backlash, however, could lead to huge political rifts and greater street demonstrations calling for ruling clerics to relinquish some of their virtually unlimited controls.
Iran's largest reformist party, Islamic Iran Participation Front, has joined the boycott camp. The party is led by the president's younger brother, Mohammad Reza Khatami, who is deputy speaker of parliament and one of those barred from the election.
Reformists won control of the parliament in 2000 for the first time since the Islamic Revolution. But hard-liners have used their control of unelected bodies such as the Guardian Council to thwart attempts to liberalize Iran's political system and relax its strict Islamic social code.
In his speech, Khatami called for a "third way" avoiding Western-style models and a Taliban-like system led by "those who don't consider the rights of the people ... and oppose freedom and democracy using religion."
"Blocking the demands of the people and their right to vote ... causes frustration, especially among the young," he said.
The official election campaign period opens Thursday. Khatami has not made it clear whether he will support the boycott movement.
"For the prosperity of the nation, I don't know any path other than reforms," he said. "Whether I succeed or not and whether obstacles keep preventing me from fulfilling my promises or not, I know no other path and won't choose a path other than reforms." http://www.lasvegassun.com/sunbin/stories/w-me/2004/feb/11/021102003.html
An answer for a question you asked yesterday, I believe.
In regards to the line of succession in Iran, and who would be next in line if Khatami resigned...............
Vice President Muhammad Riza Aref .
He would take over until Khamenei decided to hold another election.