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Tuesday, 12 November, 2002, 21:51 GMT
Iranian students renew protest
Iranian students hold up a picture of condemned lecturer Hashem Aghajari
Daily protests on campuses have remained peaceful
Thousands of students in Tehran have been holding demonstrations in support of a university lecturer condemned to death for criticising Islamic clergy.

The protests, against the sentencing of liberal academic Hashem Aghajari, were largely peaceful and confined to university campuses.

The action came the day after Iran's supreme leader issued a veiled warning that he might have to call on the "the forces of the people" if the country's governing structures did not solve major problems.


Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mohammed Khatami
CONSERVATIVES:
Leader: Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Power: The real power in Iran. Controls the hard-line Guardians Council, which approves all laws, the judiciary and armed forces
Where they stand: Committed to Islamic revolution. Opposed to any reduction in their powers and normalisation of relations with the US

REFORMISTS:
Leader: President Mohammed Khatami
Power: Control the parliament and enjoy widespread popular support
Where they stand:
Back greater democracy, reducing the power of the Guardians Council, and reform to the legal system


But the BBC's correspondent in Tehran, Jim Muir, says the statement from Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was not aimed at the student protests and there was no immediate threat of action against them.

Some conservative elements have also expressed unease over the sentencing of Mr Aghajari, with some hard-line student groups saying the punishment did not correspond to the accusations against him.

An editorial in the hard-line newspaper Kayhan voiced similar reservations, saying the ruling was a gift to reformists.

Political tensions have been rising in Iran, with reformers angry at the lack of progress in modernisation despite their election wins.

The sentence for Mr Aghajari has added to the frustrations and has also attracted international concern.

In his message, Ayatollah Khamenei criticised the government and parliament - which are run by the reformers - as well as the judiciary, which remains in the hands of hard-line conservatives.

Our correspondent says he may have been trying to encourage feuding politicians to set aside their differences by effectively banging their heads together.



See also:

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06 Nov 02 | Country profiles
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