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Iran committed to reform: minister

TEHRAN, July 22 (AFP) - Iran 's interior minister insisted Thursday the government would carry out President Mohammad Khatami's reform programme, in a ringing defence of pro-democracy protesters who took to the streets here last week.

"The government is determined to strongly proceed with its social plans," said Interior Minister Abdol-Vahed Mussavi-Lari, a close Khatami ally, a week after students clashed with security forces and Islamic hardliners.

He said opponents of Khatami's reforms had been disrupting "legal gatherings" since the reformist president came to office in 1997.

"We should not put pressure on the people and limit their legal freedoms under the pretext of maintaining security in the country," he said, implicitly blaming anti-reform hardliners for the violence.

Khatami's opponents were trying to "prevent the government from fulfilling the promises made by Khatami as well as change the goals of his plans," he said, quoted by the official IRNA news agency.

Islamic hardliners have called for Mussavi-Lari's dismissal after the violence, the worst unrest here since the aftermath of the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Students as well as government reformers have repeatedly accused conservatives of staging the riots in a bid to topple Khatami from power or block his reform agenda.

Conservatives have insisted the unrest was orchestrated by students in the pay of foreign countries.


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