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Iran's Political Dispute To Be Settled By Arbitration Body - 2001-08-06

The supreme leader of Iran has called on the country's main arbitration body, the Expediency Council, to resolve a dispute between the parliament and the judiciary. The dispute has a forced a delay in the swearing in of Mohamad Khatami for a second term as president.

The supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, wants the Expediency Council to settle the political standoff between the parliament, which is dominated by reformers, and the judiciary, which is controlled by conservatives.

At issue is the parliament's refusal to approve conservative candidates to vacancies on the Guardian Council. The 12-member council is a powerful non-elected body that supervises elections and approves laws passed by parliament. In the past, the council has frequently been used to block attempts by reformers to open up Iranian society.

Some of the council's members are appointed by Ayatollah Khameini, and some are selected by parliament from a list put forward by the judiciary.

The dispute arose when reformers in parliament opposed the appointment of at least two conservative candidates, saying they were politically biased.

Conservatives are anxious not to lose control of the Guardian Council because they fear President Mohammad Khatami and his reformist allies would then be able to push through political and social reform.

The dispute over the council has delayed the inauguration of President Khatami for a second four-year term. The president was to be sworn in Sunday, but Ayatollah Khamenei said Saturday the inauguration could not take place until parliament approves nominees to the Guardian Council.

Council members are supposed to be present at presidential inaugurations.

The Expediency Council is to meet Monday evening to try to resolve the dispute.

It is not clear when Mr. Khatami's swearing-in ceremony will take place.