Hardliners delay Khatami's inauguration

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The Independent Online

Iranian hard-liners, who have lost the presidency, the parliament and most of the Iranian people over the past five years, are fighting to hold on to their last major stronghold.

Fears of a national crisis grew yesterday as hard-liners delayed the swearing-in of President Mohammad Khatami because of a conflict over control of the powerful Guardian Council, a body repeatedly used to block reformist attempts to open up Iranian society.

At stake are nominations for three seats on the 12-member council that vets all bills passed by the reformist-oriented legislature.

Mr Khatami's swearing-in, originally due to happen yesterday, was postponed on orders of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, after the parliament approved only one of eight nominations from the hard-line judiciary.

Yesterday Ayatollah Khamenei ordered the Expediency Council, which advises him on state affairs and arbitrates disputes between the parliament and the Guardian Council, to intervene and resolve the issue. Iranian television said a meeting will take place today.

The Speaker, Mahdi Karrubi, proposed the creation of a bipartisan committee to resolve the dispute over the Guardian Council nominations. But only hours later, the country's chief judge, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, dismissed the proposal, Iranian radio reported.

Mr Khatami's term began on Thursday, when Ayatollah Khamenei confirmed him for a second four-year term. He was re-elected on 8 June on a landslide, winning 76.9 per cent of the vote. The row was the latest sign of an ongoing struggle between reformists and hard-liners, who hold immense power through unelected institutions like the council, the police, military, judiciary and broadcasting media. (AP)