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Khatami Islam must serve the people,not the state

TEHRAN, June 3 (Reuters) - Iran's President Mohammad Khatami called on Thursday for the speeding up of his social and political reforms and pledged to construct an Islamic system at the service of the people.

In a speech to mark the 10th anniversary of the death of revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the president said the people had to be allowed to shape their own destiny, rather than blindly serve the state.

``Now more than ever it is necessary to institutionalise the rule of law in society,'' Khatami told worshippers at the shrine of Khomeini, a towering mosque complex of golden domes and minarets about 20 km (12 miles) outside the capital Tehran.

``The government is at the service of the people. We are not the custodian of the people. We should listen to the voice of the people,'' he said.

Khomeini, who mobilised a broad range of political, social and economic discontent to bring down the U.S.-backed shah in February 1979, died after just over 10 years at the head of the Islamic Republic he largely personally shaped.

The formal anniversary of his death falls on June 4, and Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is due to deliver the Friday prayer sermon at the Khomeini shrine.

Khatami, a reformist cleric elected in a surprise landslide in May 1997, has seen his progressive policies opposed at every turn by much of the religious establishment. But he invoked the memory of Khomeini to assert Iran must recognise realities

``Certain people who have searched for the absolute truth have got lost. You cannot simply cut yourself off from the rest of world affairs because of God or the fear of God,'' he said.

``The Imam...was concerned with the worldly affairs of the people.''

The president said Iran must not simply follow the example of the West, but should infuse concepts of freedom and liberty with strong religious values.

``The biggest accomplishment of the revolution was the fact that the nation, with the victory of the revolution, started to believe in itself. This belief in oneself was the key to our success,'' he said. ``We are now speaking from a position of strength.''


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