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Iran Reformist Decries Hard-Liners


TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - A leading Iranian lawmaker on Tuesday urged President Mohammad Khatami to condemn the tactics of his hard-line opponents in closing liberal newspapers and trying to roll back democratic reforms.

``I call on the president not to remain silent,'' Behzad Nabavi, a reformist who is deputy speaker of parliament, or Majlis, told lawmakers.

He railed against the hard-line Guardian Council, which has blocked nearly all legislation favorable to the reformists, saying the council's behavior was ``a blatant violation of the constitution.''

The 12-man Guardian Council vets all legislation to determine whether it conforms with Islam and the constitution. The council, the judiciary, and the position of supreme leader, now Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have been used by hard-liners to stall political and social reforms in Iran.

In the past six months, hard-liners have closed down some 30 publications, nearly all of them reformist, jailed and harassed Khatami allies, and shot down legislation that favored greater political freedoms.

Khatami, who has tremendous public support, has been silent in the face of the hard-line assault, in an apparent effort to control tensions.

Most Iranians want greater political freedoms, and liberalization of Islamic social laws that ban satellite dish antennas, dating, or listening to most Western music.

There have been demonstrations in favor of greater freedoms nearly every month, some of them violent.

``The unprecedented dismissal of parliamentary bills by the Guardian Council is unconstitutional and seeks to undermine lawmaking,'' Nabavi said amid cries of support from the reformist-dominated Majlis.

``The responsibility for disappointing the people from seeking reforms within the constitution only rests with the Guardian Council and its supporters,'' he warned in the session, which was broadcast live on state radio.

The hard-liners have used Islam to justify their goals, but Nabavi said they were ``mocking Islam and Islamic laws for the purpose of factional interests.''


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