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TEHRAN, May 25 (Reuters) - Scuffles broke out on Monday when a group of hardliners attacked a gathering of students supporting moderate President Mohammad Khatami.
The clashes occurred at a student rally in Tehran's Laleh park near Tehran University, the news agency said.
``The law enforcement forces are reportedly restoring calm and order,'' it added.
A student spokesman said several people including a rally speaker were injured in the attack by about 50 hardliners armed with knives, knuckledusters and teargas canisters.
``Unfortunately our rally was once again disrupted, without the police intervening to protect a legal gathering for which we had a permit,'' spokesman Mohammad Salamati told Reuters.
The rally had been postponed twice before to avoid clashes with the hardliners, who have attacked events by critical and moderate groups. The attackers, widely believed to enjoy the support of powerful conservative circles, have gone unpunished.
The moderate student group has been demanding that non-clerics and women be allowed to run in elections later this year for the powerful Assembly of Experts, which chooses and can dismiss Iran's supreme leader.
All 83 current members of the body are clergymen.
Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, widely believed to be closer to the hardliners, intervened earlier this month and urged opposing student factions to avoid clashes.
Khatami, elected last year on a platform of more social and political freedom, pledged on the anniversary of his election on Saturday to press ahead with reforms.
Addressing tens of thousands of supporters, he said nothing would stop him from implementing the programme he had promised the people of Iran.
TEHRAN, May 25 (AFP) - Iranian students affiliated with a left-wing university organization on Monday hailed the Indonesian student movement for toppling president Suharto.
"With the victory of the Indonesian students, a student movement has once again toppled a dictatorship," said a statement from the organization, the Office for Strengthening Solidarity.
The group is the largest of the leftist student organizations which support moderate Iranian President Mohammad Khatami.
The statement also warned against being "fooled by small changes," saying that "changing a few pawns is not enough."
Refering to Indonesia's conservative faction which maintains control in parliament, the statement said "the hand of the fascist party must be cut off" to usher in electoral reform and the election of "real deputies."
The statement added: "That is the way Iranian students fought against the Shah," who was toppled by Iran's Islamic Revolution in 1979.
Several people were injured in Tehran Monday when some 100 Islamic fundamentalist militants attacked a rally supporting the reform program of Khatami, witnesses said.
The clash broke out as 2,000 people, mostly male and female students called out by pro-Khatami university organizations, gathered in the capital's central Laleh Park with permission from the government.
Tehran University has become a bastion of support for Khatami.
TEHRAN, May 25 (AFP) - Several people were injured Monday when Islamic fundamentalist militants attacked a rally supporting the reform program of moderate Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, witnesses said.
The clash broke out as 2,000 people, mostly male and female students called out by pro-Khatami university organizations, gathered in the capital's central Laleh park with permission from the government.
As the rally got under way, some 100 fundamentalists opposed to Khatami's plans to open up Iranian society tried to seize a loud-speaker mounted on a truck decorated with Khatami's picture and fighting broke out, witnesses said.
The fundamentalists shouted slogans against Interior Minister Abdollah Nuri, a moderate cleric who advocates freedom of speech.
The demonstrators from the Union of Moslem students had been authorized by the interior ministry to hold the rally, organized to call for greater democracy and popular say in the next election of the Experts' Assembly, made up of senior clerics and tasked with electing the country's supreme leader.
Student leader Heshmatollah Tabarzadi in a speech from atop a truck called for respecting constitutional rights to freedom of speech.
"The purpose of our revolution was to allow us to breathe in a free atmosphere," he said, but his voice was repeatedly muffled by hostile slogans from the fundamentalists.
Hundreds of policemen equipped with helmets, shields and batons wedged themselves between the two groups to prevent violence.
An officer tried in vain to convince the fundamentalists, who were mostly young and dressed in black to observe the mourning month of Moharram and holding posters of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to show tolerance and not disrupt the rally.
But they failed to contain the hardliners who repeatedly attempted to lunge at the crowd and threw rocks at the truck where Tabarzadi was delivering his speech.
At least two people were hurt in the stone-throwing, including one member of the fundamentalists, who call themselves "Hezbollah."
The hardliners, some of whom were riding motorcycles, also beat up several demonstrators, provoking an all-out clash and intervention by the police, who fired tear gas.
Police largely stood and watched, however, as the fundamentalists chased the demonstrators around the park, provoking further scuffles. The hardliners were seen forcibly taking away several protesters and beating them along the way.
"Khatami, come to our aid," shouted the students. "Death to the Taliban, the fascists" they added in a reference to the fundamentalist militia in power in Afghanistan.
Hundreds of bystanders, including many women, protested at what they called the "passivity" of the authorities in the face of fundamentalist violence.
The hardliners demanded the impeachment of the interior minister and shouted slogans against Tehran mayor Gholam-Hossein Karbaschi, another moderate figure close to Khatami.
"Death to Karbaschi and plunderers of the national coffers," they said, referring to a corruption scandal in the city government.
Other members of "Hezbollah" engaged in heated arguments.
"We don't want freedom. Freedom will lead to a day when the veils (for women) will be dropped and the Americans will return to Iran," shouted one fundamentalist.
"Freedom will lead to a deadend. We will continue to fight against such a trend and will not allow it," he vowed.
But many onlookers appeared sympathetic to the demonstrators.
"I do not agree with this kind of behavior. This country has to be like Europe, like France, Switzerland or Sweden, where they are free to say what they think," said Mohsen Zarei, a student.
"Our people should reach a level of understanding where they can tolerate each other's views," he added.
The violence came two days after tens of thousands of people packed Tehran University to mark the first anniversary of Khatami's election, in one of the biggest independent political gatherings since the 1979 Islamic revolution.