Iran's President Mohammed Khatami used the anniversary of Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution Saturday to hit out at his hard-line opponents, on a day marked by political tension and anti-government protests, said press reports.
In a speech on the 22nd anniversary of the revolution, Khatami accused hard-liners of harming Iran's image abroad and trying to block Iranians' hopes of freedom and democracy, reported Iran’s News Agency (IRNA).
"Rigid-mindedness is a main threat to the revolution and the Islamic republic," the agency quoted him as telling a crowd of tens of thousands gathered in Tehran's huge Azadi Square to mark the revolution that toppled the pro-Western Shah.
"Those who claim a monopoly on Islam and the revolution, those with narrow and dark views, are setting themselves against the people," Khatami said.
"They are putting (religious) values against the wishes of people, religion against freedom and disregarding the rights of people. They seek to suppress views that are not in agreement with their own narrow and dark views."
Khatami's comments drew cheers from portions of the crowd, most of whom were in a festive mood and having a picnic around the square, said the agency.
Children, waving pictures of Iranian leaders, sang to revolutionary music played by military bands and watched revolutionary plays on a makeshift stage, added the agency.
Tehran has seen two days of protests against the crackdown on freedom of speech.
Basij Islamic militiamen used tear gas to disperse up some 100 pro-democracy students holding a rally at a park in central Tehran yesterday. About 50 people were arrested.
Dozens were arrested during an anti-government demonstration in the capital on Friday, called by exiled opposition groups to protest against social and political "repression."
According to AFP, Khatami did not refer to the new wave of unrest, but said his conservative opponents' attitude "portrays an ugly image of our democratic system before the international community and disappoints our people.
Let us have faith in our people and acknowledge their central role in running their political affairs, said Khatami.
Khatami, a popular reformist elected in a landslide in 1997, has yet to announce whether he will seek a second term in elections on June 8 – Albawaba.com
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