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New police chief appointed to Iranian capital

TEHRAN, Aug 25 (AFP) - The head of Iran's police force, General Hedayat Lotfian, officially appointed Wednesday a replacement for the commander of Tehran's metropolitan police force, sacked for his role in last month's bloody riots.

General Mohsen Ansari, 50, until now deputy chief of the national police force, took over from General Farhad Nazari, who was slated for "incompetence" in handling the unrest.

Ansari was quoted by the press Wednesday as saying the heavy-handed police reaction to student protests, which sparked the worst riots since the 1979 Islamic revolution, was "arbitrary" and carried out "with no coordination" with police superiors.

"The police should not be blamed for the mistakes of several of its officers," he said.

An investigation by the Supreme National Security Council, the highest security body in Iran, cleared Hedayat of any wrongdoing in the "blunder."

But it accused "several high-ranking officers" and Moslem militants of "provocation" and "direct involvement" in the unrest, which followed a crackdown on university students protesting the closure of a pro-reform newspaper.

The riots left three dead, according to official sources, and led to some 1,400 arrests among student and opposition organisations in Tehran and the provincial capital of Tabriz.

Protesting students had called for the dismissal of Lotfian, a career officer close to the country's conservatives, whom they accused of having ordered the police attack on the university campus in the Amirabad district of Tehran.

The Council inquiry singled out for blame "the chief of the Tehran police and six of his deputy commanders from special units as well as a number of members of the special units."

It criticised the "provocative attitude" of the students and "their illegal gatherings," but said Lotfian had given no orders for the attack on the dormitory. It said the raid was "not ordered by the upper ranks of the police nor by other bodies concerned."

Nazari was dismissed immediately after the riots, press reports said. Interior Minister Abdolvahed Musavi-Lari has said the files on the police officers implicated in the unrest had been "handed over to the justice system for judgement and punishment."


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