SLUG: 2-270099 Iran Students (L) DATE: NOTE NUMBER:









INTRO: Thousands of students in Iran chanted slogans against conservative leaders and voiced support for President Mohammed Khatami, during an appearance by the reformist president Wednesday to mark Iran's students day. Correspondent Scott Bobb reports from our Middle East Bureau in Cairo that President Khatami for the second time in less than one month complained that he lacks the powers to enforce the constitution.

TEXT: Iran's President Mohamed Khatami told the crowd of cheering students at a Tehran university that although he is charged with enforcing the constitution, he has not been given the powers needed to carry out this duty. But he dismissed recent calls to revise the constitution and he urged respect for the document that has guided the Iranian revolution for 20 years.

The Iranian president criticized conservatives, saying certain people are looking to deceive the population and the youth about their rights.

President Khatami first publicly complained about his lack of power in a speech last month. This led conservatives to charge he was trying to cover up the failures of his government. It led reformist members of parliament to collect signatures aimed at drafting a bill to grant the president more powers.

Under the Iranian constitution, the president is charged with executing laws passed by the parliament, but the laws are reviewed by a council of conservative clerics and supreme power is vested in the country religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Since the strong showing by reformists in last February's parliamentary elections, the conservative-controlled judiciary has closed two dozen reformist newspapers and imprisoned many reformist journalists. Religious oversight councils have rejected a number of laws passed by parliament aimed at easing restriction on the press and political activities.

The students chanted slogans calling for the resignation of several conservative leaders and demanded the release of political prisoners. They also called on President Khatami to run for a second term in presidential elections scheduled for next May.

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Students historically have played in important role in Iranian politics. Students Day commemorates a clash in 1953 with security forces of the late Shah in which three students died. The demonstrations were to protest the visit of then-U-S Vice President Richard Nixon, which followed a U-S backed coup that deposed an elected government and restored the Shah to power.

Students also played an important role in the Iranian revolution, demonstrating against the Shah's regime and seizing the U-S embassy in Tehran. Many of the leaders of the movement at that time have since become prominent leaders of the reformist movement, which seeks to ease restrictions on politics and society. (Signed)