Iran MPs refuse privileges for supreme leader
TEHRAN, Iran (Reuters) -- Iran's pro-reform parliament on Saturday spurned
mounting conservative pressure to extend a special budgetary privilege
to state bodies controlled by the country's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali
It was the latest development in a tug-of-war between the reformist-majority
chamber allied with President Moahmmad Khatami and the Guardian Council,
a legislative watchdog body dominated by hardline conservatives.
Parliament recently passed a ruling cutting the budgets for the next
Iranian year of state-run radio and television and the Guardian Council
-- both run by conservatives backed by Khamenei and leading opponents of
Khatami's liberal reforms.
But the Council, which oversees parliamentary rulings, rejected the
move, arguing that bodies under the leader's control should be exempt from
The new parliament, elected last year, has already been forced to cede
a mandate to probe into bodies run by the leader.
But reformist deputies held their ground this time, demanding that the
supreme leader and his powerful establishment respect the law.
"We have sworn to safeguard the constitution. If we do not have
the authority to decide on budgetary issues, what else is there to do,"
MP Rajab-Ali Mazrouei told the assembly during a heated debate on changes
demanded by the Guardian Council to the budget for the year beginning on
"The Guardian Council's view that institutions under the leader
should act differently is incorrect. Such an attitude will only lead the
country to an impasse," the official news agency IRNA quoted him as
The supreme leader, who has disproportionate powers compared to other
heads of state in Iran, has blocked efforts by the new assembly to expand
press freedoms, one of Khatami's main goals.
Parliament bowed to pressure on another issue and raised the budget
for state radio and television, seen by reformers as the main propaganda
machine for the powerful conservatives.
If Saturday's rulings again fail to satisfy the Guardian Council, the
dispute will be taken up by a higher state body, the Expediency Council,
which is itself accountable to Khamenei.
Iran's economy remains stagnant amid the bitter factional row and unclear
political and economic direction.
Parliament on Thursday approved the $57 billion budget, boosting spending
to jump-start the economy and create jobs.