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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 August, 2003, 22:51 GMT 23:51 UK
Iran's rulers 'should call referendum'

By Pam O'Toole
BBC regional analyst

Reformist Iranian President Mohammad Khatami
Reformists in Iran are "finished", Khomeini's grandson says

The grandson of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution, has made a stinging attack on the country's current Islamic system and rulers.

In an interview with the BBC Persian Service, Hossein Khomeini, a hojatoleslam - or middle ranking clergyman - accused the current rulers of oppressing the Iranian people and committing human rights abuses.

Speaking from the Iraqi holy city of Najaf, he said that Iran's reformist movement was finished and called for a referendum to decide how the country should be governed in the future.

He was also highly critical of the way Iran's Islamic system of government has developed.

'Guilty of oppression'

Hojatoleslam Khomeini questioned the principle of velayat faqih, or Islamic jurisprudence, upon which the system is based.

Reformist protesters being detained in an Iranian prison
Khomeini says the Iranian rulers are guilty of oppression
He added that, if his grandfather were alive today, he would have opposed all of Iran's current leaders because of what he described as their excesses and wrongdoing.

These people, he alleged, did not even carry out their own Islamic beliefs.

They were guilty of oppressing the Iranian population, killing people or jailing them for no reason.

As for the reformists, he said, they were finished.

People who had voted for President Khatami hoping things would change had seen things get worse, rather than better, in his second term of office, he said.

Strong rejection

Hojatoleslam Khomeini maintained that those who voted for an Islamic Republic in Iran more than 20 years ago were now in a minority.

The vast majority of today's Iranians were either under voting age or not yet born when that decision was taken.

What was needed now, he said, was a referendum on Iran's Islamic system of government.

One way or another, he said, that could resolve the current situation without a drop of blood being spilled.

His comments mark one of the clearest and strongest rejections of the Islamic system of government by an Iranian cleric.

They will be seen as particularly significant because they have been made by the grandson of the man whose name has become synonymous with Iran's Islamic Revolution.

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