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Foreign Media Sowing Discord In Iran, Says Cleric

Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani

Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani

TEHRAN (Reuters) -- Iran's influential former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has said that foreign media were using "psychological warfare" to create discord among Iranians, state media has reported.

Rafsanjani, a rival of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad whose disputed reelection in June plunged Iran into its deepest crisis since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, also repeated his plea for national unity in remarks to Iran's top clerical body on September 22.

The opposition says the June 12 vote was rigged to ensure Ahmadinejad won. It says more than 70 people died during street protests that followed the vote, twice the official toll. Hundreds of opposition supporters were arrested.

Rafsanjani, a long-standing Ahmadinejad rival, backed the opposition in the early weeks of the postvote unrest but has come under heavy pressure from the authorities to show loyalty to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

"Foreign media were also involved in the enemies' psychological warfare and we have to have the astuteness needed to make proper decisions in good time," Rafsanjani told the powerful 86-seat Assembly of Experts, referring to the unrest.

"Our enemies have always been plotting against us," said Rafsanjani, adding that "we should be prepared to block their plots, though they are mainly psychology warfare," he told Iran's top clerical body, which he chairs.

In July, Rafsanjani declared the Islamic republic was in crisis and demanded an end to arrests of moderates contesting the election result.

But last month he issued a statement supporting Khamenei's call for unity against Iran's enemies and saying the authorities should confront those who break the law.

Defeated moderate candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karrubi said the June 12 election was rigged.

Hard-liners have portrayed the opposition protests as a foreign-backed bid to undermine Iran's Islamic government system and the authorities -- including Khamenei -- say the election result was an accurate reflection of the voters' will.

Hundreds of protesters, including senior pro-reform figures, were arrested after the election. Most have since been released.