In an unexpected move, President Mohammad Khatami said he will resign if people want him to go, amid growing public dissatisfaction over his failure to fulfill promises of democratic reforms, a newspaper reported yesterday.
"We are not masters of people but servants of this nation. If this nation says we don't want you, we will go," Khatami was quoted as saying by the government-owned daily, Iran.
Iran's formerly popular, elected president has come under increasing pressure in recent months to stand firm against unelected hard-liners and fulfill election promises of freedoms and democratic change. It was the first time he has publicly offered to resign.
Khatami made the comments in a speech in Karaj, west of the capital, Tehran, on Thursday, but the state-run television and radio censored the part of his speech which dealt with a possible resignation.
Khatami's hopes for a compromise with hard liners have been thwarted in recent weeks after the hardline Guardian Council, that vets all parliamentary legislation, rejected two key reform bills presented by the president.
Those bills would have given greater powers to Khatami to stop constitutional violations by his hard-line opponents and bar the Guardian Council from arbitrary disqualification of candidates in legislative and presidential elections.
"We have to approve the qualifications of various candidates. If the people feel the program they vote for meets obstacles, then they will not participate in the elections," Iran quoted Khatami as saying.
Khatami has repeated during recent years that he was powerless to stop hard-liners from violating the constitution and acting against voted reforms.
The closure of more than 90 pro-democracy publications in the past three years, the arrest of dozens of prominent intellectuals and writers and closed trials without jury were open violations of the constitution, according to Khatami.
The president has said he was responsible under the constitution to stop such violations, but the hardline judiciary has ignored Khatami's warnings.