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Iran President vows zero tolerance against 'vigilantes'

President Mohammad Khatami on Wednesday pledged that the Iranian government would not tolerate vigilante groups which have violently assailed protesting students since last week, but he defended police for confronting rioters, IRNA reported.

Speaking to reporters after signing a transit agreement between Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan, Khatami also hit out at US leaders for cheering the troubles as well as western media, which he said, were hyping up the protests.

The Iranian president, who came into office first in 1997 on the back of an overwhelming student support to uphold the rule of law and establish a civil society, backed students' rights to protest.

"If we accept democracy, it requires that protests are also made," the cleric said, adding "what divides democratic communities from undemocratic societies is the existence of such protests".

"We recognize the right to protest, but we do not intend to confront our opponents with violence and force," the Iranian president said.

Khatami condemned vigilantes for attacking protest rallies and beating students up. "As announced before, we will not tolerate the acts of pressure groups any longer."

Police, he added, will hunt down those vigilantes who had assailed a student dormitory in northwest Tehran and violently beaten them up besides insulting them.

"An opponent must be allowed to speak and the government must not trespass the boundaries of the law in confronting its opponents," Khatami said.

The statements made by US officials, he added, had led to better "solidarity upon national interests and objectives among the Iranian nation".

"If America's proponents as well as the opposition manage to exploit (an event) and rally only 1,000 people, this shows how strong we are and how few their sympathizers are," Khatami said.

US praise for recent unrest in the Islamic Republic following student protests to perceived privatization of universities has infuriated Iranian officials who have denounced it for constituting "blatant interference in Iran's internal affairs".

Khatami said US officials had made the statements according to wrong information supplied by western media which, he said, were aggrandizing the unrest.

"There is no news in Iran. What has happened in Iran, similar to what had happened before, is hundreds of times smaller than what happens in America on a daily basis.

"How come the violent treatment of people by American police is regarded democratic, while non-political demonstrations in Iran are aggrandized by the media," Khatami added.

"Doubtless, if people are demanded today to participate at any rally to condemn the outsiders' interference, most of the people will come to the scene," he said.

We will not allow any alien to interfere in our internal affairs, the Iranian president stressed.

Iranian officials have said the riots were provoked by the enemies, especially the United States which has openly encouraged them.

Last Thursday, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that Washington was behind riots in the Islamic Republic and urged the nation and state officials to remain vigilant.

"The enemies openly support those adventurers who can become their mercenaries by disturbing people's security. Thus, the whole nation, the youth and officials in particular, must remain vigilant," the Supreme Leader told a gathering of jubilant people in Varamin, south of Tehran.

The first unrest broke out on Tuesday last week following a peaceful gathering of students in protest to the alleged privatization of universities.

Basij militia vow ceaseless struggle to protect Islamic system

The Basij militia of Tehran in a statement on Thursday said the recent unrest in Iran had been provoked by the US, and vowed a ceaseless struggle to protect the Islamic establishment and its achievements, IRNA reported.

The militia said the US -- the "Great Satan" -- has employed mercenaries and is misusing student rallies to challenge the "sacred" Islamic establishment with the assistance of anti-Iranian satellite channels.

It stressed that the students and the police had been prudent to control the unrest, adding that this had once against frustrated the plots of the sworn enemies of the nation.

A brief meeting by students at Tehran University's dorm to protest alleged privatization of universities turned into an angry rally last Tuesday.

The rally was followed by several days of late evening demonstrations that were at times misused by thugs who destroyed public properties and chanted slogans against the government.

"Today, we, the Basijis, renew our allegiance with the founder of the Islamic Revolution Imam Khomeini, the martyrs, and the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces (Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei)," read part of the statement.

"We pledge to struggle to defend the sacred Islamic establishment and its achievements just like we do to save our lives, and will never cease this sacred battle even for one moment."

The police have been stationed at the Tehran University Dorm over the past week to restore calm.

No clash has yet been reported between the students and the police.

The militia further voiced support for the "prudent" efforts by the police to restore public order in the wake of the student unrest, and said it was ready to provide any cooperation with the police in that connection.

"The organized and lawful participation of the Basijis in recent developments had been meant to stop the ploys and had been at the request of the officials, and was not connected to the willful measures of those who have acted as sympathizers of the establishment," the Basijis said in the statement.

... Payvand News - 6/19/03 ... --

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