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Iran Hard-Liners Criticize Khatami

November 29, 2000

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) _ Iranian hard-liners harshly criticized moderate President Mohammad Khatami for accusing them of constitutional violations, saying it was part of a ploy to win re-election next year, newspapers reported Tuesday.

On Sunday, Khatami said hard-line opponents of his pro-democracy reforms, including the judiciary, were violating the constitution and he was powerless to stop them. He said the closed-door, no-jury courts that are used to try journalists and political activists were an example of how the constitution was being trampled.

The hard-line head of the judiciary, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, warned the constitution should not be misused for political purposes.

``The constitution should not be employed as a political instrument for factional and party objectives. I call on the president to take new and serious steps to implement articles of the constitution not implemented so far,″ the conservative daily Entekhab quoted Shahroudi as saying.

Shahroudi said he was setting up a panel to look into possible constitutional violations.

In a related development, a moderately reformist newspaper, Iran-e Javan, was banned Tuesday, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

Entekhab also written commentary accusing Khatami of seeking to cover up his deficiencies and attract votes in presidential polls, which most likely will be held next May. Earlier this year, Khatami said he would run for re-election, but this month he said he was undecided.

``Prior to the presidential election, Khatami has launched an early election campaign to blame the weak performance of his administration on his opponents,″ the daily said.

The official Iranian news agency reported that Iran-e Javan, or Young Iran, a small circulation weekly, had been closed. The report did not say who issued the order to ban it, but the move was presumed to come from the judiciary.

The judiciary, which is controlled by hard-liners, has closed 30 publications _ all but one of them pro-reform newspapers _ since it began a press crackdown in April in a bid to roll back social and political reforms.

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