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Dissident Calls for Elections in Iran
By ALI AKBAR DAREINI
Associated Press Writer
September 17, 2003, 11:09 AM EDT
QOM, Iran -- In his first public speech in six years, Iran's leading dissident cleric criticized the country's hard-line Islamic leaders Wednesday, saying they should submit to elections and allow the country's young people to choose their future.
Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri addressed his followers after five years of house arrest and several months of illness.
About 300 students crowed into a small building in central Qom, a holy city 80 miles southwest of Tehran, to listen to the 81-year-old cleric, who was once the designated successor of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Montazeri recalled the late Khomeini's saying that the people should make their own decisions.
"The same applies now," Montazeri said, "the majority of our population is now dissatisfied with the ruling establishment. The matter should be put to popular vote."
In Iran's Islamic government, unelected bodies controlled by hard-liners hold the levers of power, including the judiciary, military and police -- and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has the final word in all matters. Hard-liners have used that power to prevent social and political changes pushed by the elected president and the reformer-dominated parliament.
Speaking to The Associated Press after his speech, Montazeri said the path to reform in Iran is "to allow the people to choose their rulers. If people are not satisfied, the establishment is not legitimate."
Montazeri was placed under house arrest in 1997 after telling students that Khamenei was incompetent to rule. He accused the ruling clerics of monopolizing power and ignoring the democratic ideals of the revolution. The clerics denounced him as a traitor.
In January, Iran's Supreme National Security Council lifted the house arrest. By then Montazeri's health had deteriorated and the move was believed to have been prompted by fears of an uprising if Montazeri were to die while under restrictions.
Montazeri is one of a few grand ayatollahs, the most senior theologians of the Shiite Muslim faith. He enjoys huge followings in Qom and Isfahan, his birthplace. He fell out with Khomeini, and lost his position as successor, shortly before the leader's death in 1989.
In an interview with the AP, Montazeri said: "The authorities should increase their tolerance ... and allow the new generation to choose their future."
In his speech, Montazeri criticized the conservatives' crackdown on intellectuals and writers, dozens of whom have been detained and had their publications banned.
"It is a disgrace that university teachers are humiliated and detained," he said. "This is against Islamic teachings."
Copyright © 2003, The Associated Press http://www.newsday.com/news/nationworld/world/sns-ap-iran-dissident-cleric,0,6087301.story?coll=ny-worldnews-headlines
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Leader stresses IRGC's role in Iran
Tehran, Sept 16 - The Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei said here on Monday that all necessary financial and moral means should be provided for consolidating the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), which is the distinguished pillar of the immense building of the Islamic establishment.
Addressing a group of senior IRGC commanders, Ayatollah Khamenei said that with God Almighty's grace Iranian nation would continue to be prepared for resistance and perseverance against enemies.
Ayatollah Khamenei recalled God's irrevocable promise for absolute victory of Muslims and said resistance against enemies would make them disappointed in overcoming the Iranian nation.
The Supreme Leader said the past two centuries marked efforts by the arrogant powers and colonialists to plunder interests and resources of nationals and establish an international tyrannical systems in global communities but the Islamic Revolution of Iran derailed the process of pillaging by international dictatorship, sparking strong hostility towards Iranian nation.
Ayatollah Khamenei said that on threshold of the victory of Islamic Revolution, the US and Israel tried to completely violate the rights of the Palestinian nation so as to put an end to the issue of Palestine but thanks to Iran's Islamic Revolution, Palestinian youth with empty hands have brought the most ill-nature element of Zionist Regime, i.e. the criminal Sharon, to his kneels.
He said the Zionist regime is now badly engaged in the occupied lands thanks to the blessings of the Intifada.
He added that had the greedy Zionists not been gripped with Intifada they would have undoubtedly acted to dominate Egypt, Syria and Lebanon and other Middle East states.
Ayatollah Khamenei said the arrogant powers come across with problems upon invasion on any Muslim states as they do in Iraq thanks to the nations' Islamic vigilance.
He added that Iranian nation is not surprised at the continued hostility of hegemonistic US and international Zionism as well as other powers that bully Islamic system.
He said materialization of holy Quran's prediction on continuation of the hostility has made the faith of the Iranian nation stronger.
"The invasion and hostility would continue as long as enemies have not been disappointed; so, efforts should be made to have pessimism in dominating the Iranian nation cast its shadow on the enemy camp," said Ayatollah Khamenei.
Elsewhere in his remarks, Ayatollah Khamenei referred to the IRGC as a divine gift for Iranian nation and the country's history and said blessings of the auspicious institution would remain everlasting both at present and future in Iran.
The Ayatollah highlighted the IRGC's success in passing difficult eras in the past quarter a century and said abundant and rich experience and a team of resistant and faithful personnel have turned the IRGC into a highly honorable and powerful establishment.
The IRGC commander general Yahya Rahim Safavi and the leadership's representative at the IRGC Hojatoleslam Movahedi Kermani had prior to the Supreme Leader's speech voiced the IRGC's readiness to defend Iranian nation and the Islamic establishment. http://www.iribnews.com/Full_en.asp?news_id=188153
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"About 300 students crowded into a small building in central Qom, a holy city 80 miles southwest of Tehran, to listen to the 81-year-old cleric,..."
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