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Late Cleric's Son Warns Of More Iran Turmoil

Grand Ayatollah Montazeri died in December
BERLIN (Reuters) -- Iran's rulers must compromise with opposition figures to avoid a worsening of the political turmoil, the son of the late dissident cleric Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri said in comments released today.

In an interview with Germany's "Der Spiegel" magazine, Said Montazeri said he hoped Iran's rulers would come to their senses and called on Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad to resign.

"Things can't go on for long like this," Montazeri was quoted as saying in an interview conducted by mobile phone from his home in Qom. It was unclear when the interview took place.

"I think the future structure of our society is not so important. It could be an Islamic Republic, a secular republic, or as far as I am concerned, even a monarchy. The main thing is that people can live in freedom and in prosperity," he said. Antigovernment protests have flared repeatedly since a disputed presidential election last June, throwing Iran into its most serious internal crisis in the Islamic Republic's 30-year history.

In the last week, there have been bloody confrontations, arrests and hardline demands for the strong suppression of opponents of the government.

Asked by "Der Spiegel" if he expected a bloodbath, Montazeri said: "I hope it won't come to that. I still hope the rulers will come to their senses and make compromises and take the path of national reconciliation. If they don't, my country will be in a much worse state in one year's time than it is today."

Montazeri also insisted that Ahmadinejad should resign.

"The people responsible must apologise for their wrongdoings and repression in the last months. That would be the condition for a continuation of the Islamic Republic. And after Mahmud Ahmadinejad has resigned, the presidential office must be handed to the candidate who won most votes at the election -- Mr [Mir Hossein] Musavi," said Montazeri.

Opposition leader Musavi alleges the June presidential vote he lost to Ahmadinejad was rigged. The government denies this.

Mousavi said on January 1 he was ready to die for his reformist campaign, defying hardline calls for his arrest or execution, and demanded the release of political prisoners, respect for press freedom and a change in the election law.

Mohsen Rezaie, a conservative presidential contender in June, urged Iran's leaders on January 1 to consider Musavi's demands as a "constructive" solution to reduce tension, the semi-official ILNA news agency reported on January 2.

Rezaie is a secretary of the powerful arbitration body, the Expediency Council, led by influential former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

Iranian security forces clashed with supporters of Montazeri's father after the cleric died in December at the age of 87, according to reformist websites.