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Resolution in Sight for Iran Inauguration - 2001-08-07

A dispute has been settled between Iran's conservatives and reformers for control of the nation's powerful Guardian Council - a powerful non-elected body that approves laws passed by parliament.

Iranian President Mohammad Khatami will be sworn in to a second term Wednesday, but his reform-minded parliament will, once again, have to deal with a powerful, conservative Guardian Council that, in the past, has resisted reform.

Mohammad Saleem is an expert on Iranian politics at Cairo University in Egypt. He says the reforms President Khatami is seeking will not come easy during during his second term in office. "The reforms of President Khatami could be delayed, to some extent, that the pace of the reforms will not be as great as expected," he said. "I think it's a part of the process rather than a turning point in the process."

President Khatami was supposed to have been sworn in Sunday, but a dispute between the parliament and the conservative-led judiciary forced the nation's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to postpone the ceremony until the dispute was resolved. The parliament was opposed to the appointment of two conservatives to the Guardian Council, which has the authority to strike down laws passed by parliament.

Iran's top arbitration body, the Expediency Council, settled the dispute late Monday when it ruled that the parliament had to fill the Guardian Council vacancies with nominees selected by the judiciary. On Tuesday, the parliament approved two candidates. Neither candidate received a majority vote from parliament but they were the top vote getters.

Reformists may see the intervention of the Expediency Council as a setback, but Professor Saleem says it is just part of the growing pains of democracy. "I see it as a process of democratic change in Iran," he said. "You know, in every democracy, a decision is part of a resolution process of compromise, of middle of the road decisions. The same thing will apply for Iran as well."

During President Khatami's first term, the Guardian Council blocked many of his efforts to ease restrictions in Iran. Conservatives argued the president was undermining Islamic foundations and tempting youth away from Islam.