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Stern rebuke for Iran's liberals on 10th anniversary of Khomeini's death

TEHRAN, June 4 (AFP) - Iran's supreme leader delivered a stern rebuke to liberal reformers within the Islamic regime Friday in a keynote speech marking the 10th anniversary of the death of the regime's founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

"We don't need any lessons about freedom from political upstarts," Khomeini's successor Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told the hundreds of thousands of Iranians gathered for the centrepiece anniversary rally.

"Imam Khomeini launched a revolution in order to apply the laws of the Koran" but he always also insisted on the "primacy of the role of the people," Khamenei told the crowds.

"Now a group of upstarts wants to teach the Imam and the Islamic system how to practise freedom of thought and expression," he said.

"What is said about freedom today is in fact an important part of the movement initiated by the Imam."

The shock 1997 election victory of moderate President Mohammed Khatami sparked mounting tensions within the Islamic regime between his reformist supporters and conservative and hardline opponents.

Khamenei urged Khatami's government not to forget the late Iranian leader's concern for the poorest sections of society and to "pay greater attention to the economic problems of the country and the well-being of the population."

In his anniversary speech at Khomeini's shrine on Thursday evening Khatami also clearly alluded to the mounting rift between conservatives and reformers calling for tolerance to be shown on all sides.

"Rather than bracing for head-on ideological collisions, the people and supporters of the Islamic revolution should strive to behave in line with the proprieties set for them by Imam Khomeini," the reformist president said.

"From Islam's point of view, salvation and freedom go together," said Khatami, who served as culture minister under Khomeini.

Officials hired thousands of buses to transport people to the ceremony at Khomeini's mausoleum on the capital's southern outskirts in a bid to demonstrate the continued popular devotion to late Iranian leader at a time of deep divisions among his successors.

The whole of Iran's top leadership turned out for the ceremony, the centrepiece of the regime's celebrations for the 10th anniversary of Khomeini's death and 100th anniversary of his birth.

Khomeini's disciples were anxious that the event serve as a sign of the durability of the Islamic revolution under the leadership of the Shiite Moslem clergy 20 years after the overthrow of the shah.

Vast crowds of men and women, all dressed in black and wearing red and green headbands, gathered separately before a platform bearing portraits of Khomeini his son Ahmed and successor Khamenei.

Mourners chanted "down with the US," "Down with Israel" and "Down with corrupt western culture."

Khomeini's funeral was attended by between eight and 10 million according to official figures, and officials put Friday's turnout at more than a million.

Expecting high temperatures, the authorities laid on more than 350 trucks to provide water to the faithful and erected some 2,000 tents as well as 53 ambulances and a mobile operating theatre.

More than 300,000 pamphlets outlining Khomeini's life with some 100 quotations from the leader of the Islamic revolution were distributed at the ceremony.

Iranian newspapers have been publishing page after page of messages of condolences from individuals, government departments and companies in the days leading up to the anniversary of Khomeini's death on June 4, 1989 at the age of 89.


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