Iranian president Mohammad Khatami has been sworn in for a second four-year term, but not before a political fight held up his inauguration for three days. Iran's reform-minded parliament was forced to yield to hard-liners in order for Mr. Khatami to take the oath of office.

"As president, I swear on the holy Koran to uphold the religion and the people's rights."

Those were the words of Iranian president Mohammad Khatami following his official swearing-in ceremony Wednesday.

President Khatami said he is determined to defend what he called the "fundamental rights of the people, legitimate liberties, a free press, and civil institutions."

During his inauguration speech, Mr. Khatami defended the political and social reforms introduced during his first term, and said the reformist movement should expand throughout the government and society.

He also said that "the establishment of religious democracy is an undeniable necessity," and, "we should seize this opportunity to reinforce civil institutions and reject hatred and violence as a means for political struggle."

President Khatami was alluding to attacks against his reformist allies by conservative-backed elements.

President Khatami was re-elected by a landslide vote of nearly 80 percent in June.

He was set to be sworn-in Sunday but a political battle broke out between the reformist parliament and the conservative judiciary over the nomination of two conservatives to Iran's politically powerful Guardian Council.

The Guardian Council has the authority to block legislation approved by Iran's parliament and, in fact, consistently exercised that power during the last several months of President Khatami's first term in office.

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, postponed the inauguration until the dispute could be settled by the nation's top arbitration body, the Expediency Council.

In essence, parliament was told it must approve the nominees and, on Tuesday, a vote was held. In protest, two-thirds of parliament cast blank ballots. Even so, the two candidates that parliament opposed won with a simple majority of the votes cast.