Iran says working to end political infighting
TEHRAN, Feb 13 (Reuters) - Iran, strained by a bitter factional row
and growing dissent, is taking steps to reach national consensus on political
and security issues, a senior security official said on Tuesday.
The Expediency Council, which sets general policy guidelines, will chart
a comprehensive security bluprint in the coming months, encompassing differing
views in the Islamic republic, said council member Hassan Ruhani.
"To reach lasting security, we have to reach a consensus and common
understanding," Ruhani, who is also the secretary of Iran's Supreme
National Security Council, told a seminar on security.
"A good criteria for security is to tolerate different viewpoints.
The better a society takes opposing views, the less vulnerable it is,"
state television quoted him as saying.
Mounting political infighting, student protests and rebel mortar attacks
have torn at a society struggling over competing notions of a modern Islamic
Islamic hardliners, trying to hold their grip on power, have waged a
virulent campaign against President Mohammad Khatami's liberal reforms,
accusing his allies of trying to undermine the Islamic republic.
Dozens of reformist journalists and activists have been jailed by the
hardline judiciary and many more face prosecution, including top advisers
to Khatami. Anti-government protests, while still small, are gathering
The embattled president has strongly attacked the crackdown, accusing
the hardliners of trying to harm Iran's international image and undermine
hopes of freedom and democracy at home.
"It is not fair to use violence and irrational means with some
people, while extending iron-like immunity and even encouraging those who
disrupt legal gatherings in the name of religion," he said.
Despite the judiciary's severe treatment of reformers, no action has
been taken against hardline vigilantes who have attacked conferences held
by Khatami's advisers in recent days.
The vigilante campaign flies in the face of Khatami's drive to establish
the rule of law. Khatami said on Monday he had faced an average of "one
serious crisis every nine days" since he became president in 1997.
NEED FOR RULE OF LAW
"To reach lasting security, we must first submit to the rule of
law," said Mehdi Karroubi, speaker of parliament and a Khatami ally.
"Sometimes, even those in the ruling class do not respect the law
and create tension".
Khatami, a progressive Shi'ite Muslim cleric, has argued that a more
open society, not force, is the way to overcome security threats.
"Security will come when people feel their demands are met, otherwise
no military, police or judiciary force will be effective," he said.
"True security comes when we accept as natural difference of views
in society and even pave the way for them to flourish".
But Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has backed both
Khatami and his conservative opponents at different times, said "philosophising"
was not the answer to Iran's security problems.