Iranian president calls for legalization of opposition
TEHRAN, June 11 (AFP) - Iran's reformist President Mohammad Khatami
has called for greater tolerance for dissenting views and the legalization
of opposition groups, the official IRNA news agency reported Friday.
Differences of opinion are a "normal phenomenon" and "should
be recognized as a normal and accepted trend," the president told
a reformist group which backs his policies, the Islamic Iran Participation
If different views are not "expressed through the right channels,
that is parties and communities, they will go underground, causing great
losses to society and the system," he told the meeting Thursday.
Official recognition would mean that the groups agree they are "subject
to the law."
Giving them legal breathing space "will help create transparency
in their political and social actions and avoid tension and instability
in society," he said.
He described the formation of "different communities with different
tastes and opinions within the framework of the law" as "one
of the government's principal policies."
"If we want a developed society based on virtue and competence,
we should recognize and tolerate different views and provide a suitable
legal framework for the activities of different groups."
He acknowledged that there were those who stretched the limits of tolerance.
"Without any doubt, we have some enemies who use freedom to create
clashes in order to attain their own goals and deprive the people of their
constitutional right to a free system."
But he urged the country to distinguish "criticism from the weakening
of the system."
"We cannot create stability through superficial unity, and cover
up differences of opinion by prohibition and coercion. "Criticism
will help consolidate the system," he said.
Khatami's speech came amid a mounting campaign by senior clerics against
the his government's gradual relaxation of the political and cultural restrictions
introduced after the 1979 Islamic revolution.