TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran’s intelligence minister lashed out at former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani on Thursday, in comments underlining deep establishment rifts in the Islamic Republic after its disputed June election.
Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi spoke three days after police clashed in Tehran with opposition protesters seeking to renew their challenge to the hardline government.
Rafsanjani, a rival of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, backed moderate Mirhossin Mousavi in the vote and in the course of ensuing protests declared the Islamic state to be in crisis. The pro-reform opposition says the vote was rigged to secure Ahmadinejad’s re-election.
In July, Rafsanjani demanded an end to arrests of moderates following the poll. Last Sunday, he accused Iran’s rulers of “silencing any constructive criticism by closing the door on any criticism.”
Moslehi, quoted by the official IRNA news agency, said Rafsanjani recently had stated that his views about post-election events had not changed.
“It is shocking to see that he repeats the same things as the leaders of the recent riots say in their statements,” he said, apparently referring to Mousavi and fellow reformist Mehdi Karoubi, who have continued to voice defiance over the election.
“Those who themselves are in crisis think the country is in crisis ... but as an informed official I declare that there is no crisis in the country,” Moslehi said. “Those who used to think they were on the safe side should know ... they can not victimize the intelligence forces for their own interests.”
The presidential election plunged Iran into turmoil and exposed deepening divisions within its ruling establishment.
The authorities, rejecting vote fraud charges, have portrayed the mass demonstrations that erupted after the poll as a foreign-backed bid to topple the clerical leadership.
Even though the security forces largely quelled the street protests shortly after the election, Mousavi supporters have continued to stage sporadic demonstrations.
“Some people think that the recent unrest is only a dispute over the election, but unfortunately ... some people unexpectedly stood against the (Islamic system of government),” Moslehi said.
Rafsanjani chairs the 86-seat clerical Assembly of Experts, a clerical body that supervises, appoints and can sack Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, although it is not known to ever have intervened in policy.
Reporting by Reza Derakhshi; writing by Fredrik Dahl; editing by Ralph Boulton