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TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran said on Sunday it had arrested seven people accused of stoking unrest after last year's disputed election, including some who it said were employed by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.
The arrests were reported by the official IRNA news agency before possible new anti-government protests on February 11, when Iran marks the 31st anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution that toppled the U.S.-backed shah.
Opposition supporters have used such official occasions to try to revive their protests over the poll last June, which they say was rigged to secure the re-election of hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The authorities have rejected the vote fraud charge and portrayed the huge demonstrations that erupted after the vote as a foreign-backed attempt to undermine the Islamic Republic. They have made clear they will not tolerate more such unrest.
In the most serious violence since the aftermath of the election, eight people were killed in clashes between security forces and opposition backers during demonstrations on Ashura, the ritual Shi'ite day of mourning that fell on December 27.
Opposition websites have invited people to take to the streets also on February 11, raising the prospect of new clashes.
"The security forces will be after maintaining the safety of the demonstrations and will fiercely confront anyone who might want to fall out of line with the revolution's caravan," a Revolutionary Guards commander, Hossein Hamedani, said.
The revolution anniversary "belongs to all 70 million Iranians and we will not let anyone confiscate it for the sake of a certain group," ISNA news agency quoted him as saying.
IRNA quoted an Intelligence Ministry statement as saying seven people "linked to the counter-revolutionaries, the Zionist media and elements of the sedition" had been arrested. It did not name them or say when they were held.
It said the detainees were also linked to a U.S.-backed, Farsi-language radio station and had received training outside Iran, for example in disrupting public order, spreading rumors and conducting sabotage.
"A number of them were officially hired by the U.S. intelligence agency, the CIA," the statement said.
It said they had played an important role in 'post-election riots', particularly those on Ashura.
Western countries have rejected allegations of interfering in Iran's internal affairs after the election.
Thousands of people were arrested after the June vote. More than 80 people, including senior reformist figures, have received jail terms of up to 15 years.
Last month, Iran hanged two people sentenced to death in post-vote trials. The West and human rights groups condemned the executions, accusing Iran of staging "show trials" and of seeking to intimidate the opposition.
Editing by Angus MacSwan