Iran reform setback

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The Independent Online
IRAN'S PARLIAMENT sharply rebuked President Mohammad Khatami's drive for greater political openness yesterday by forcing out the country's influential influential interior minister in a vote of no-confidence.

State-run Iranian television said later that president Khatami had named the interior minister, Abdollah Nouri, the man he described last week as "a blessing", to be his vice president for development affairs, a new post.

The conservative-dominated Majlis voted 137 to 117, with 11 abstentions, against Mr Nouri, blaming his modest reforms for what it called an unacceptable rise in social and political tensions in the Islamic Republic.

After the result of the secret ballot was read out, there were cries of "God is Greatest" from the conservative benches.

Before the vote, Mr Nouri's critics took the rostrum to denounce him for allowing public rallies by opposition student groups, replacing old- line officials at the Interior Ministry and taking sides in increasingly public discord between rival factions. The deputies may have been motivated in part by fear that Mr Nouri could use his position to influence the outcome of parliamentary electionls, due in March 2000, putting their own seats at risk.

Mr Nouri, an eloquent cleric from the central city of Isfahan, defended his year-long tenure, warning deputies that failure to modernise the political system would alienate a new generation of educated Iranians who have come of age since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.