Fri, Jul 11, 2003 - Page 7 News List

Unrest anniversary spawn running battles in Tehran

THE GUARDIAN , TEHRAN

Hundreds of Iranian hardline Islamic vigilantes, police and pro-democracy youths fought three-sided running street battles near Tehran University Wednesday on the anniversary of 1999 student unrest.

A witness said police fired tear gas at youths near the campus and also fought with plainclothes Islamic militiamen to prevent them from engaging in further battles.

Trouble erupted when three Iranian student activists were abducted by armed vigilantes announcing that they were calling off rallies to mark the anniversary of democracy protests.

The vigilantes, known as the shock troops of the hardliners, were believed to be members of paramilitary groups that operate outside regular government authority and answer to powerful clerics.

Remaining student activists locked themselves in their office and said they would stay put until reformist members of the Iranian parliament (MPs) arrived. Dozens of student leaders have been detained recently and their whereabouts remain unknown. Before he was taken away, Reza Amiri Nasab said the decision to call off protests had been taken at the request of five reformist MPs who are former student activists.

"The whole ceremony that was planned for the anniversary of July 9 is postponed to the beginning of the academic year," Mehdi Habibi said in Tehran. The MPs had written to the students appealing for cancellation of the protests, and promised to press for an end to human rights abuses.

Meanwhile, the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohammad ElBaradei, said he had agreed with Iranian officials to send experts to Tehran next week to address the country's concerns about agreeing to more inspections of its nuclear sites.

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