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Iranian Clerics Appear Unwilling to Negotiate with Demonstrators - 2003-06-28

Experts on Iran say the arrest of more than 4,000 people during student-led protests this month reveal a reluctance on the part of the Iranian clerical establishment to negotiate. According to Dr. Hassan Abu Taleb of the Ahram Center for Strategic and Political Studies, the many arrests in Iran showed the June demonstrations were more powerful than the rulers in that country would like to admit.

"This means that these demonstrations were very strong, and that the regime is still afraid from its results and its consequences, and it followed its regional policy against such kinds of demonstration, I mean, by arresting people," he said.

Dr. Abu Taleb says the many arrests - including about 800 students and 30 key student leaders - mean Iran's Muslim clerical establishment is still unwilling to negotiate with the demonstrators.

"The regime is still neglecting the means of dialogue as a good channel to solve such kinds of frustration that most of the Iranian people are feeling," he said.

The recent protests in Iran were the largest in months, and started with students demonstrating against plans to privatize universities. The protests soon turned into broader displays of opposition to Iran's conservative clerical establishment, as well as opposition to President Mohamed Khatami for not living up to election promises for social, political and economic reforms.

Political analyst Ahmed Menissy operates the monthly magazine, Iran Digest. He says the mass arrests in Iran will only make matters worse, and he cautions against misunderstanding the real cause of the protests.

He says the protesters were calling not so much for a change of Iran's Islamic regime, but for the implementation of promised reforms.

Both Dr. Menissy and Dr Abu Taleb say U.S. support for the protests is called "imperialist interference" by opponents of reform, and only serves to undermine the demonstrations.