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Tehran wants "drastic reform" following dissident murders

TEHRAN, Feb 15 (AFP) - Iran's reformist government launched a campaign for a thorough overhaul of the secretive intelligence services Monday following last month's shock admission that "rogue" agents were involved in the murder of dissidents.

The intelligence ministry, which is "responsible to ensure the security of citizens," had "become the home to a coterie of murderers," said an editorial in the government newspaper Iran Daily.

"Drastic reform" of the ministry was now essential following the resignation earlier this month of conservative Intelligence Minister Qorbanali Dorri-Najafabadi, the paper said.

But the campaign immediately ran into opposition from conservatives opposed to interference in the intelligence ministry from Iran's reformist government.

Conservative cleric Ali Yunesi, who is expected to be formally designated to replace Dorri-Najafabadi Tuesday, should retain a "free hand," the conservative Tehran Times said.

Iran Daily described the "recent spate of murders by security forces" as the "ugliest event during the era of the Islamic Republic."

Dorri-Najafabadi's resignation "bodes well," but had come "a bit late" and only "under pressure by the president (Mohammed Khatami)," the paper said.

"The minister's resignation can be regarded as the second achievement of the presidency after the first which was the intial admittance of guilt by the security establishment," it said.

"Yet what the public demands in the 20th year of the victory of the revolution is the drastic reform and fundamental development of the country's security establishment to avoid the recurrence of such events." The paper insisted that Iran's reformist president had to exercise continuing supervision over the ministry if he was to fulfil his campaign promise to ensure respect for the rule of law.

"If ... the president exercises no authority in (the minister's) appointment or dismissal or even that of a manager of the ministry, how is he expected to fulfil his pledge to defend the rights of the people?" the paper asked.

"Legal supervision of the performance of such a sensitive body is a national obligation," the paper insisted.

But the conservative Tehran Times expressed strong opposition to any attempt by Khatami to reform the intelligence services.

Yunesi -- a conservative former head of the Tehran Revolutionary Court whose name is expected to be put before parliament for approval Tuesday -- should be given a "free hand" to appoint his own staff, the paper said.

The paper accused those who claimed to be seeking to reform the intelligence ministry of in reality seeking to further their own factional advantage.

"There are words in the air that pressure is being exerted on Yunesi to appoint certain individuals ... Unfortunately the (intelligence) ministry has long been a target of factionalism," the conservative paper said.

"True (Khatami) belonged to a certain faction before his election as president in May 1997 ... However now he is president of the whole nation not a certain faction, his administration should not be influenced by any factional tendencies," it said.


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