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Iranian Police Vow 'No Tolerance' Toward Protesters

Esmail Ahmadi-Moghaddam: "We won't show any more tolerance."
TEHRAN (Reuters) -- Iranian police will show no more tolerance toward antigovernment protesters, the force's chief was quoted as saying today, in a warning to the opposition ahead of possible new demonstrations next week.

Iran has been rocked by street unrest since its disputed presidential election last June. Internet messages have circulated about new protests on February 11, when Iran marks the 31st anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Supporters of the pro-reform opposition have used such official occasions to stage rallies in recent months, despite many arrests in a continuing crackdown by authorities.

Government officials have rejected opposition charges that the June vote was rigged to secure the reelection of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad. They portrayed the election protests as a Western-backed bid to undermine the Islamic establishment.

"Now that the different dimensions of the sedition are clear, we won't show any more tolerance," police chief Esmail Ahmadi-Moghaddam said, the ILNA news agency reported.

"Police will act firmly to defend the society's security and those who break the law will be dealt with severely," he said.

He said hundreds of people were arrested in connection with protests that erupted on Ashura -- a ritual Shi'ite day of mourning that fell on December 27 -- with the help of tipoffs from the public after police published photographs of them. He said more such photographs of demonstrators would be issued soon.

Eight people were killed in clashes between security forces and opposition supporters on that day, in the most serious violence since the aftermath of the June 12 disputed election.

Moghaddam also reiterated a warning against the use of e-mails and SMS messages to spread the word of new protests, making clear police were monitoring such means of communication.

"The new technologies allow us to identify conspirators and those who are violating the law, without having to control all people individually," he said.

Last year's disputed election plunged Iran into its deepest domestic crisis since the Islamic Revolution and exposed widening establishment divisions. Thousands of people were detained, including senior reformist figures, and dozens of people were killed in the unrest.