Double blow for reform movement in Tehran

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The Independent Online

President Mohammad Khatami formally withdrew two key reform bills yesterday, while a man reviled by reformers as a killer of press freedom was publicly honoured as the "best manager" in the Iranian judiciary - small signs of the waning strength of the reform movement.

President Mohammad Khatami formally withdrew two key reform bills yesterday, while a man reviled by reformers as a killer of press freedom was publicly honoured as the "best manager" in the Iranian judiciary - small signs of the waning strength of the reform movement.

The bills, which Mr Khatami said last month he would remove from further parliamentary consideration, had sought to bring democratic change to Iran's theocracy. Abandoning them was an acknowledgment of the failure of the pillars of Mr Khatami's presidency.

One of the bills was aimed at increasing presidential powers in order to stop constitutional violations by unelected hardliners. The other sought to bar the Guardian Council, the hard-line oversight body, from disqualifying parliamentary and presidential election candidates. Mr Khatami withdrew the bills in a letter addressed to Mahdi Karroubi, the parliamentary speaker. The letter was read in an open session of parliament yesterday and broadcast live on Tehran radio.

The Guardian Council rejected the parliament-approved bills in April and May 2003, saying they were unconstitutional and against Islam.

Meanwhile, Iran's unelected clerics honoured one of the biggest enemies of Mr Khatami's reform programme: Saeed Mortazavi, the Tehran prosecutor, who was behind the closure of about 100 pro-democracy publications.

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