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Iran's reformists hold emergency meeting over row in parliament

August 8, 2000, Teheran (dpa) - Iran's reformists were holding an emergency meeting Monday over the previous day's row in the Majlis (parliament) about the press law review, a source close to the reformists said.

``The 2nd Khordad movement (reformists) will hold an emergency meeting over the incidents Sunday in the Majlis and take appropriate decisions,'' the source said.

A long-awaited review of the press law in the Majlis was abruptly cancelled Sunday by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who said the review favoured the interests of the country's enemies.

Calling off the review led to tension and even a scuffle between reformist and conservative MPs. Reformists protested that the lawful rights of the MPs to review a bill were violated, while conservatives saw the protests as an insult to the supreme leadership.

According to the source, the reformists are divided over how to tackle the problem. Their so-called radical wing demands a harsh fight against ``disrespect of the popular vote'', a reference to the 70 per cent won by the reformists in February's Majlis elections.

But the other wing says that, because of President Mohammad Khatami's commitment to the constitution, his supporters cannot ignore the constitutional principle that the supreme leadership is authorised to have the last word on internal and external issues.

Under the current press law 22 publications, including 21 close to Khatami, have been closed by the conservatives in the judiciary, making thousands of reporters jobless. Amending the law was intended to lift the bans which reformists term a ``press massacre''.

The conservatives accuse the reformists of planning to undermine Khamenei's constitutional authority and seeking a secular course instead. The conservatives also hailed and supported Khamenei's order to halt the press law review.

According to the official news agency IRNA, some 50 people gathered in front of the Majlis Sunday to support what they called the ``decree'' by Khamenei and protest against those MPs who have allegedly insulted the leadership.

The protestors also called for the resignation of liberal Culture Minister Attaollah Mohajerani, who is directly responsible for the country's press.

The IRNA correspondent covering the protest gathering was detained for an hour by two armed men and reportedly not able to cover the whole incident. A demonstration by the traders of the Bazaar in favour of Khamenei was planned for Tuesday.

The conservatives in the judiciary, as well as closing down reformist publications, have detained several liberal journalists. The latest case was Monday's detention of Ahmad Zaydabadi from the moderate Teheran daily Hamshahri (Fellow Citizen).


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