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Iran: Khatami Seeks Expanded Powers

Tehran, 28 August 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Iranian President Mohammad Khatami says he wants to submit to parliament a proposal that would increase his powers. Khatami today said in Tehran that the president "ought to be able to act with more power," and that this is a constitutionally described prerogative of the post.

Voters have given Khatami major victories in two consecutive presidential elections, in 1997 and 2001. His backers have a majority in parliament.

But the primary responsibility for executing state affairs lies with supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who acts through the Islamic clergy.

Khatami and the reformist majority in parliament have frequently been curtailed in their ability to act by Iran's conservative-controlled institutions, which look to Khamenei for their inspiration.

The "Iran News" daily today quoted Khamenei as saying that "any success for the government is the success of the whole system."

Khamenei added that all those who care about the fate of Iran and its Islamic system should hope for the success of the government. Khamenei was speaking to mark "Government Week."

In other news, the Iranian parliament planned to prepare a bill that would legalize abortion in certain cases. The official news agency IRNA reports reformists presented the bill yesterday to parliament. The agency said it would legalize abortion for married couples whose child is considered by three physicians and the coroner's office to be malformed or for married mothers whose health is endangered by their pregnancies.

Abortion is strictly forbidden in Islamic Iran, and gynecologists or midwives carrying out abortions can face severe penalties.

The new law would not be valid for nonmarried couples as extramarital relations in Iran are forbidden and offenders face legal consequences.