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Iranian Government Meets to Discuss Student Protests - 2003-06-17

Government ministers are meeting Tuesday in Iran to discuss the week of student protests that have rocked the capital, Tehran, and have spread to other parts of the country. But Monday's protests were the smallest of the week.

For the seventh consecutive night anti-government students demonstrated at Tehran University to demand greater freedom.

Witnesses said the overnight protests drew fewer crowds than in the previous six nights, which saw dozens of demonstrators and police injured, mostly in clashes with hardline vigilantes loyal to Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Police guarded Tehran University overnight in an effort to shut down access to hardliners who had attacked a group of students in their dormitory on Saturday.

In addition to the protests in Tehran, Iran's official news agency (IRNA) reported unrest in several other Iranian cities overnight.

Several Iranian government ministers were to meet to discuss the protests, according to Iran's state-run radio.

Demonstrators say they want greater freedoms and are promising there will be more protests.

The primary target of the protests is Iran's conservative clerics, who control most of the country's key institutions. But they are also showing dissatisfaction with Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, whom they accuse of failing to deliver significant change during his six years in office.

On Sunday, President Bush described the protests as a positive sign in Iran toward democracy. Later, a State Department official, Richard Boucher, said Washington was offering moral support for the demonstrators, but nothing else.