Friday, July 23, 1999 Published at 22:04 GMT 23:04 UK
World: Middle East
Guards chief backs Khatami
Iran's Revolutionary Guards are seen as the custodians of the Islamic revolution
The head of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, Rahim Safavi, has reaffirmed official support for President Mohammad Khatami, following controversial criticism of him by a group of the guards commanders.
His endorsement comes four days after the publication in the Iranian press of a letter from 24 senior Revolutionary Guards commanders who accused the president of leading the Islamic Republic into "anarchy".
Referring to the letter, General Safavi said the well equipped Revolutionary Guards, who are under the command of Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, are responsible for supporting the president "as a pillar of the present political system in Iran".
He added that it is probable that General Safavi's message of support has come as a result of some behind the scenes lobbying.
Pro-democracy student leaders in Iran have accused security forces of beating and torturing members who were arrested during last week's protests.
They have also accused the forces of maintaining the wave of arrests in the capital Tehran.
The authorities say most of the 1,400 people who were arrested have been freed.
But the Council for Student Protesters, a student committee set up after the incidents, said that some of its own members, as well as other students, were still being detained.
The council said the arrests were illegal and that those held were subjected to prolonged interrogations and beatings, before being forced to sign false confessions.
"Some people have been arrested merely for being students. After being interrogated for hours, they were beaten and forced to sign confessions blindfolded," the group said in a statement published in the Hamshahri daily, seen on the Internet in Dubai.
The group added that seven of its own members and students belonging to other university organisations were missing and believed held by security forces.
Iranian hardliners have recently stepped up a campaign against liberal newspapers which have flourished under the moderate reformist president.