TEHRAN, 3 Oct. (IPS) Iran’s beleaguered President Mohammad Khatami was dealt a severe blow on Sunday after the conservatives-controlled Majles impeached Mr. Ahmad Khorram, his Minister of Roads and Transportation by a large majority.
Mr. Khorram was voted out of office by a tally of 188-58 and nine abstentions in the 290-seat parliament, an impeachment motion brought up for mismanagement in his office, the official news agency IRNA reported.
The vote came while Mr. Khatami was in Algiers, addressing Algeria’s parliament and lecturing lawmakers on the values of religious democracy
The decision was that hardest humiliation dealt to the powerless Khatami by the Majles and in total contradiction with the new lawmakers who, when they took control of the House, had assured the President of their cooperation with him and his government, analysts noted.
The vote came while Mr. Khatami was in Algiers, addressing Algeria’s parliament and lecturing lawmakers on the values of Islam, religious democracy and friendship among all nations, mostly Muslim world.
Iranian political analysts said the powerless Khatami could postpone his visit to Algeria, but he deliberately left the country in order to escape the difficult task of defending personally the embattled Minister, accused of “corruption, abuse of power, mismanagement and impotence in the face of high fatalities on Iranian roads as well as rails and aviation”.
"The performance of Transport Minister Ahmad Khorram has been satisfactory and I believe the ministry is among the successful branches of the government in terms of the volume and quality of work done", Mr. Khatami had said on Thursday, informed of the Majles’ decision to impeach Mr. Khorram.
But analysts said the Revolutionary Guards, who have some 80 lawmakers in the present Majles brought on the Sunday motion, angry with Mr. Khorram over the contract he signed with a Turkish-Austrian consortium awarding all the services at the newly constructed, but no yet finished Imam Khomeini International Airport (IKIA) to the firm.
The Armed Forces shut down IKIA to air traffic hours after it was officially inaugurated last May, invoking security risks and warned that the 500 US Dollars million airport would remain closed as long as the nation’s security requirements for carrying out flights from the facility are not met.
Khorram had adamantly defended the contract, rejecting contentions that his ministry’s decision in awarding the tender for the construction and operating the IKIA to the Tepe-Afken Vie had jeopardized Iran’s national security, IRNA reported.
Khatami had suffered a serious blow last week when lawmakers approved a bill imposing on the Government the “necessity” to secure Majles’ authorisation for signing any major contracts with foreign companies and since the bill included contracts signed before the measure, it obviously faulted contracts with TAV and TurkCell, a Turkish telephone company that was awarded Iran’s second mobile telephones operator.
Opponents of this contract accuse TurkCell of having contacts with Israel, a country that not only the ruling Iranian ayatollahs do not recognise the existence.
The decision, taken on the eve of Mr. Khatami’s official visit to Ankara prompted the Government to postpone the planned trip to Turkey as long as the fate of the contracts have not been decided.
However, in a conciliatory move, the Majles decided later on the week not to include the deals with the two Turkish concerns in the unprecedented law, one that Mr. Khatami described as “unjust and against the Constitution”.
If the government feels that there is a powerful supervisory apparatus, this will definitely help it improve its performance
According to a government official, the annulations would cost Iran billion of dollars, as TurkCell was expected to invest about three billion dollars in the project, making it one of the biggest foreign investments in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
During the Sunday debates, Mr. Khorram said, "Those who voted for my impeachment are not certainly satisfied with this move. "If the MPs had looked fairly at this issue, they should have opposed the impeachment", he added.
Majles Speaker Qolamali Haddad-Adel defended the motion, saying, "Impeachment is among the prerogatives and responsibilities of the Majles.
"If the government feels that there is a powerful supervisory apparatus, this will definitely help it improve its performance", he observed.
The Road and Transportation Minister was formally summoned last month to the parliament to defend his record and answer for a spate of disasters at the country’s air and rail networks.
In February, 289 people were killed and several hundreds wounded in a train accident in Neishabour in northeast Iran, where wagons loaded with sulphur, fertilizer and cotton careened and exploded.
Last February, 276 people were killed when a passenger plane crashed into a mountain in southeastern province of Kerman.
Another plane, an Il-76, crashed also into mountains last year, killing all on board, including 302 passengers and the crew.
Khorram took over as the transport minister from Rahman Dadman, who died in a plane crash four years ago. ENDS KHORRAM IMPEACHED 31004