Iran's Khatami slams hardliners
December 6, 2000 , TEHRAN, Iran (Reuters) -- Iranian President Mohammad
Khatami told thousands of student supporters on Wednesday he lacked sufficient
power to fully realize his vision of a democratic Islamic system in Iran.
Khatami, a popular reformist cleric, attacked his powerful hardline
opponents, accusing them of trying to cling to power at any expense.
It was the second time in recent days he admitted failure in implementing
the constitution in the face of hardline opposition.
"I am responsible for the constitution and must have the needed
resources to meet this responsibility," he said in a question-and-answer
session with students at a Tehran campus.
"When I see the law is broken I should be able to stop it immediately
and send it for investigation. But I don't have this prerogative. I should
have it to do the job correctly."
Iran's judiciary, dominated by hardliners, has closed most independent
publications and jailed a number of reformist activists, accusing them
of trying to undermine the Islamic system.
Despite enjoying widespread popular backing, Khatami has not been able
to defend his reformist allies, often keeping silent to avoid provoking
his opponents, who also control security and the armed forces.
But as he nears the end of his four-year term, the president has been
more vocal, goaded by students and other radical allies who are growing
impatient with the slow pace of liberal reform.
"Unfortunately, some press violations have been tried without jury.
I have repeatedly served notices, which is all I can do," he said.
The students, holding pictures of Khatami and jailed dissident clerics,
often drowned out the president's remarks with chants demanding freedom
for jailed activists, the resignation of hardline officials and a referendum
on the constitution.
The event marked Student Day, which dates back to the killing of three
students by police during a visit by the then U.S. Vice President Richard
Nixon in the 1950s.
Khatami repeated a demand for greater constitutional powers, a call
which has drawn criticism from conservative leaders, who accuse the president
of playing politics to ensure his re-election next May.
Khatami has suggested he will seek a new term.
"There are certain provisions of the constitution which are not
respected. We should find a mechanism to make sure the law is not violated,"
There were minor scuffles between students and a group of hardline activists
trying to disrupt the event.