Iranian reformists vs. conservatives on budget bill
An influential Iranian reformist MP on Saturday attacked the oversight Guardians Council after it rejected parts of a budget bill, which have become mired in political controversy.
The conservative-led council rejected several items in the budget including a move to cut funding to conservative-run state television and radio, which reformists claim help undermine their movement.
"The Guardians Council is leading the nation toward a stalemate by rejecting progressive articles in the budget," MP Rajabali Mazruie said in Saturday's legislative session, broadcast live on state radio.
He accused the council of "insinuating that parliament wants to weaken institutions controlled by the supreme leader," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and said the legislature must "keep its promises and create reforms."
The Guardians Council, charged with ensuring that all new legislation conforms to the constitution and Iran's Islamic law, ruled that several items in the controversial budget were not in line with one or the other.
It rejected any cut in the budget or other administrative decision on those state institutions under the direct control of Khamenei, including a measure that would have forced the army to evacuate some properties it has held since Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution.
It also refused MPs any say in the budget for state media, the conservative-controlled judiciary or the Aid Committee of Imam Khomeini, a powerful state foundation, which provides direct aid to the poor.
The council also overruled a measure to make state funds available to political parties, which had been one of President Mohammad Khatami's key proposals in the budget bill. Khatami has yet to make a formal declaration about whether he will seek re-election at the polls in June.
MPs were proposing to recraft some of the rejected items, which could be again vetoed by the council, meaning the disputed items would be referred for arbitration to another conservative-led oversight council.
Another measure rejected by the council was first-ever legislation allocating funds for political, sporting and cultural activities for the Islamic republic's religious minorities.
More than a third of Iran's deputies, most of them conservatives, boycotted a parliamentary session Thursday over a controversial measure to make businesses reimburse billions of dollars.
The item, also rejected by the council, would force businesses to pay back six billion dollars to the government because of a generous exchange rate policy introduced following Iran's 1980-1988 war with Iraq.
A parliamentary source said the order contained in the budget mainly affected industrialists close to the conservative camp, including bazaar merchants and powerful Islamic foundations close to the clerical regime. — (AFP, Tehran)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)