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Fake letter about ethnic Arabs provokes clashes in Khuzestan province of Iran

Ahvaz, April 16, IRNA-Iranian officials scrambled Saturday to denounce a letter purportedly calling for the relocation of ethnic Arabs from this southern city as 'forged', which triggered unrest.

Certain neighborhoods of the city witnessed clashes between police and ethnic Arabs Friday night, in which several state buildings, including banks and police cars were damaged and at least three people injured.

A local official at the Khuzestan governor's office, Qodratollah Dehqan, said the area was calm now and the police had the situation under control.

Government spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh said President Mohammad Khatami had ordered the Intelligence Ministry and the Supreme National Security Council to identify those behind the unrest.

The official stressed that the letter, attributed to former vice president Mohammad Ali Abtahi, was forged aimed at provoking ethnic tensions.

"Following special investigations which were carried out by the presidential office, it became clear that there exists no letter with such a content," Ramezanzadeh said.

"Furthermore, the content of the letter indicates that it does not comply with any political principles of the Islamic Republic and it is merely aimed at inciting Iranian ethnic groups," he added.

Abtahi, on his website, denied having written such a letter.

"Anyone who reads the letter will realize that such a decision, even if confirmed by the Supreme Leader or the Supreme National Security Council or the president, cannot be implemented in Iran," he said, adding "I have never had the prerogative to order a change of demographic composition." Dehqan said officials were investigating to see whether 'the hands of foreign agents and enemies of the revolution are at work'.

"We are trying to convince ethnic Arabs of Ahvaz that those who want to perturb unity among Arabs and non-Arabs through their evil and antagonistic acts definitely are not friends of the revolution," he said.

Dehqan pointed to the fact that 'an important member of the Supreme National Security Council -- (Defense Minister) Ali Shamkhani -- is a tribal Arab and many of the top security and police officials belong to this ethnic group'.

Governor of Khuzestan province, Fathollah Moin, called on the local people to remain 'vigilant against divisive plots'.

"The aim of the distributors of this forged letter is to disrupt existing solidarity among the people of the province through creating disunity and division and instigating public opinion," he added.

... Payvand News - 4/16/05 ... --

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