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Iran's Hard-line Reasserts Itself with Calls to Avoid Reforms - 2002-12-23

A senior hard-line Iranian cleric has warned members of the country's reformist government against proposing legislation that would give more power to the country's reformist president.

The Imam from a seminary in Iran's holy city of Qom is quoted in a state-run newspaper as saying President Mohammed Khatami and his supporters will be demolished if they insist on proposed reforms that would increase the president's power.

According to the Associated Press, Imam Mohammed Reza Faker is quoted in the newspaper Iran as saying the reformers want to bring chaos to the country, and that God supports the clergymen who have ultimate authority in Iran.

The country's parliament, controlled by reformists, has reportedly already approved one major bill criticized by Mr. Fakar. The bill would prevent the conservative Guardian Council from disqualifying election candidates at will. The other bill gives the reformist president the right to limit the powers of non-elected institutions like the police and judiciary, which are also controlled by hard-liners.

Each of the measures needs to be ratified by the Guardian Council to become law. Iran's supreme leader and most powerful figure, Ayatollah Ali Khamani, who has the ultimate say in all matters of state, appoints guardian Council members.

Tension between conservatives and reformists in Iran has increased over the past few weeks, since a reformist professor was given a death sentence in November for questioning conservative rule. The sentence, which is currently under review, sparked repeated clashes between reformist students and conservative activists.