Khatami does not rule out change of Iranian constitution
September 5, Teheran (dpa) - Iran 's President Mohammad Khatami has
said for the first time since he assumed office in 1997 that he does not
rule out changes to the constitution, the official news agency IRNA reported
``The constitution is a symbol of national and practical solidarity
which distinguishes the government's boundaries and the nation's rights
but it could be changed like all other humane laws,'' Khatami told Iranian
graduates in New York.
Iran 's constitution orders an Islamic ruling system in the country
which is based on the absolute authority of the supreme religious leadership,
which is - after the demise of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1989 - in
the hands of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Khamenei constitutionally stands above law and is authorised to interfere
in state affairs like he did last month when he called a parliamentary
debate on the press law.
Pro-Khatami reformists intend to change the political status quo and
decrease the role of Khamenei to supervisory one but the conservative opposition
loyal to Khamenei brand the reformists to follow - ``in line with the enemies
of the revolution'' - a secular course.
``The people have the right to criticise the government on account of
the problems they are suffering, especially in economy and personally I
prefer a law-based criticism of the government to an unlawful support of
it,'' Khatami said.
Khatami further called on the Iranian expatriates ``not to forget your
roots, never forget where you come from and never forget that you are and
Khatami is in New York to attend the United Nations Millennium Summit,
and also palsn to meet with Iranian expatriates in the U.S.
``I know that there is no deeper pain that being away from the homeland
and it is my duty to be also the president of all Iranians abroad,'' Khatami
added in the meeting.
Millions of Iranians live abroad in Europe, Asia, Australia and especially
the United States. An estimated 2 million Iranians live in the U.S. alone.
Khatami has consistently welcomed the return of Iranian expatriates
and stressed that their demands for having a legal guarantee for their
return and their investments in Iran .
``The doors of their motherland are always open, they can come anytime,''
Meanwhile the Iranian Majlis (parliament) intends once again to debate
over a bill which grants amnesty to all Iranian expatriates and enables
a safe return, the Teheran press reported Monday.
The bill excludes Iranians with proven records of terrorist operations
or involvement in armed struggle against the state.
The bill is supposed to be ratified before the end of the Iranian year
(March 20, 2001), the reports said.
Last November, the previous Majlis term proposed a similar bill but
was later on removed from the agenda although it was supposed to be ratified
at the beginning of the current year.
The reformists in the Majlis term had put the issue of preparing legal
grounds for Iranians abroad to have full legal security for their return
home as one of the priorities in their campaign for last February's election.