Iran's President Says Reforms Defeated



TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - President Mohammad Khatami conceded defeat Wednesday on two bills meant to check the power of Iran's hard-liners, essentially acknowledging the failure of key pillars of his reformist presidential agenda.

One of the bills aimed to increase presidential powers in order to stop constitutional violations. The other sought to bar the Guardian Council - a powerful conservative oversight body - from disqualifying parliamentary and presidential candidates.

The bills were passed by the then-reformist dominated parliament in early 2003. But the Guardian Council rejected the bills several months ago, saying they were unconstitutional and against Islam.

Khatami acknowledged Wednesday that there would be no breakthrough in working out a deal on acceptable legislation.

"I withdraw the bills and declare that I have met with defeat," Khatami told reporters. "I am withdrawing (the presidential powers bill) so that the few powers that the president has now are not eliminated."

Khatami repeatedly has complained he is powerless to stop hard-liners, who have blocked all reform legislation, shut down more than 100 liberal publications and detained dozens of pro-reform activists and writers.

Reformists also accused the Guardian Council, which oversees elections and can veto parliamentary legislation, of disqualifying their candidates for the last parliamentary elections - including many incumbent lawmakers - to ensure control of what had been a reform-oriented parliament.

Reformists boycotted elections they said were rigged so they had no chance of winning, and hard-liners easily retook control of parliament.

Without the parliament, Khatami and his Cabinet lost a key bastion of support.

In acknowledging he would now be unable to salvage legislation for meaningful political reform, Khatami also lashed out at the Guardian Council as harming Iran's Islamic government.

"Members of the Guardian Council should not weaken the system," he said.