DUBAI (Reuters) - The families of Iranian military divers killed in a 1980s war with Iraq have condemned moves to politicize a recent reburial ceremony, state news agency IRNA said on Thursday, in a likely reference to hardliners opposed to compromise with the West.
Thousands of mourners attended an emotional public ceremony in Tehran on Tuesday after the divers’ bodies were recovered last month. A military spokesman said they had been captured and buried alive by Saddam Hussein’s forces in 1986.
In state television coverage of the ceremony, some members of the crowd could be seen holding up placards criticizing Iran’s negotiations with six world powers, which aim to curb Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for relief from international sanctions.
IRNA, whose reporting provides a window on official thinking in the Islamic Republic, said officials and most of the participants opposed the use of political slogans, which it did not specify, in the ceremony.
It added that the families of the ‘martyrs’, as military casualties are known, had issued a statement condemning the attempt to bring politics into the commemorations.
“Alas, once again a political group with no relation to the martyrs did everything in its power to link the great exploits of our people to their own political agenda and faction,” IRNA quoted the statement as saying.
“To use the devotion of people respecting the martyrs as a vehicle for advancing political interests is unacceptable.”
Hardliners often use commemorations of the 1980-88 war, in which Iraq’s then-president Saddam Hussein enjoyed the support of many Western and Arab powers, as a platform to reinforce their message that the West should not be trusted.
Nuclear negotiators reached a preliminary accord in April and are hoping to reach a final deal, that will impose strict limits on Iran’s nuclear activities, by June 30.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has championed the diplomatic effort and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has lent his cautious support, but some hardliners fear the negotiators are giving too many concessions to the West.
Iran insists on its right to enrich uranium and develop its nuclear program, which it says is only for peaceful purposes, but Western powers want stronger assurances that the Islamic Republic is not aiming to develop a nuclear weapon.
Reporting by Sam Wilkin, Editing by William Maclean and Hugh Lawson