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Conservative-dominated parliament winds up business

TEHRAN, May 24 (AFP) - The outgoing conservative-dominated Iranian parliament held its final session Wednesday, before giving way to a new Majlis firmly on the side of reformist President Mohammad Khatami, with the battle for the key position of speaker now underway.

Outgoing speaker Ali Akbar Nateq-Nuri, in a speech at the end of the parliamentary session, said the experience of being in parliament since the 1979 Islamic revolution had seen his hair and beard turn grey.

He described the record of the outgoing assembly, which has systematically hampered Khatami's reform programme for the past three years, as "positive."

Nateq-Nuri said the future parliament, which contains 80 percent Khatami supporters, will be first and foremost "ideological."

The outgoing assembly wound up its business amid intense discussion over who will be the next speaker when the new parliament convenes Saturday, with at least 247 of the full complement of 290 deputies.

They must choose provisional officers of the parliament, as they wait for the winners of the first and second round of the elections February 18 and May 5 to be accredited.

The reformist movement has been involved in intense internal debate to find a candidate to lead them.

The Mosharekat, or Islamic Iran Participation Front (IIPF), the leading reformist party, said it will vote for its own candidate for house speaker, ruling out support for the former president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, elected in Tehran on a moderate conservative ticket.

"The Mosharekat will put forward its own candidate for the position, and will ensure that the Majlis speaker is a member of the 2nd of Khordad Front," IIPF leader Mohammad-Reza Khatami, brother of the president, said Tuesday, referring to the coalition which his party dominates.

"In line with the wishes of the people's representatives, the speaker must be a spokesperson" of the deputies, Khatami added.

Among the candidates in line, another former Majlis speaker, Mehdi Karubi, is among the favourites, while other political groupings linked to the reformers, support Behzad Nabavi, who like Karoubi, is a former militant of the radical left in power during the 1980's.

Nabavi is a former minister for heavy industry.

Nateq-Nuri presented commemorative plaques to the members of the outgoing assembly inscribed by Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.


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