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Reformers Say Iran's Hard-Liners Plan Revolt

By Jonathan Lyons

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran's reformers say they have learned of a ``master plan'' by hard-liners in the security forces and their allies to crush the movement for change and even topple the government of moderate President Mohammad Khatami.

They say some elements of the elite Revolutionary Guards, the police and the state broadcast monopoly have formed a ''crisis committee'' to fan social, political and religious tensions and pave the way for a possible coup d'etat.

``The Crisis Committee, or creating crises?'' asked an editorial earlier this week in Sobh-e Emrouz, a reformist daily with good sources in the intelligence service.

The newspapers have not named the figures in question and the conservative newspaper Resalat Wednesday dismissed such charges as fantasy.

``Where is the Crisis Headquarters?'' it asked in a front-page headline. ``Why don't the gentlemen answer?'' Last week, a statement from the Guards denied a coup was in the works, saying ``coup d'etat is a meaningless, alien and irrelevant word.''

But a leading reformist said he had been given notes from a tape made at a recent meeting of the committee, detailing a three-stage program to weaken the reformers, halt their advance and then eliminate them. A copy was made available to Reuters by the reformist figure, who asked not to be identified.

``The revolution, Islam and the blood of the martyrs are endangered,'' the notes quote a senior Guards commander as saying.

``One option is to sit and watch, the other is create a strong executive headquarters. In the first phase, we weaken the other side. In the second, we stop them from advancing and in the third phase we remove them from the scene.''

Steps Outlined

Specific steps said to have been outlined at the meeting included:

-- Arrest and prosecution of leading reformers, who would be branded ``foreign agents or spies.''

-- Closing 18 reformist publications to interrupt the flow of information to the people.

-- Bullying intellectuals into remaining silent.

-- Convincing Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of the dangers to the Islamic system posed by the reform movement.

-- Disruption of the Tehran bazaar and the religious seminaries to provoke senior clerics.

-- Deploying terror to force many Khatami supporters to ''stay silent or pull aside.''

According to the notes, the meeting concluded with a debate on the timing and wisdom of an anti-Khatami putsch.

When objections are raised that the majority of the army and the Revolutionary Guards supports the president, one commander counters that the ``adventurous atmosphere'' of a coup would win over the younger recruits.

``A coup d'etat on what pretext?'' presses his interlocutor.

``The grounds could be that some of these (reformers) are foreign agents or spies,'' comes the reply.

In the 10 days since the meeting recorded in the transcript, the judiciary has banned 13 reformist publications. The ban followed a speech by Ayatollah Khamenei in which he said the reformist press had become ``bases of the enemy.''

Several reformist journalists have been detained for trial or sent to prison, while the Revolutionary Court has summoned for interrogation reformists who took part in a seminar in Berlin, which conservatives have branded counter-revolutionary.

Interior Minister Sounds Alarm

A strike was called in the Tehran bazaar last Thursday and in the seminaries in the holy Shi'ite Muslim city of Qom on Monday to protest foreign meddling, and fresh graffiti around Tehran have accused the press of housing anti-Islamic elements.

Pro-reform newspapers and government officials first began warning of a ``crisis committee'' earlier this week, but there has been no confirmation that such a body is at work behind the scenes.

``Has this committee been created in coordination with security officials and the Supreme National Security Council, or does it intend to create crises instead of preventing them?'' Fath daily Monday quoted reformist Interior Minister Abdolvahed Mousavi-Lari as saying.

``The sudden closure of...newspapers and publications must be seen in line with the acts of the crisis-creating committees,'' said Sobh-e Emrouz. ``(Recent events) show the target of these crises is the reformist front and the pious forces supporting reform.''

But the conservative Resalat said the reformers were unable to substantiate their claims. ``The gentlemen who claim a crisis headquarters and power mafia exist do not say where this committee is and who its members are,'' it said.


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