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New Clash Reported In Iran's Northwest


A banner in front of a mosque in the Iranian city of Kashan asserts on December 22 that "according to a decree from Iran's security council, memorial services for Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri are banned."
(RFE/RL) -- Security forces in northwestern Iran reportedly forcibly dispersed mourners and sealed off a mosque after a local cleric encouraged participation in a memorial to the late Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, an eyewitness told RFE/RL's Radio Farda.

The eyewitness claimed "heavy clashes" ensued when security and plainclothes forces tried to keep people away, including locking the mosque in Zanjan's doors.

Radio Farda could not independently confirm the report. But reformist websites have reported similar information.

Iranian officials have severely restricted the media in an effort to head off repercussions amid a crackdown in the wake of June's disputed election.

The eyewitness said police were arresting people as they emerged from the ceremony initiated by Ayatollah Bayat Zajani, Farda reported.

The source added that thousands of people had come out to a central square in Zanjan.

The death last week of Montazeri, a co-founder of Iran's Islamic republic who was effectively forced into internal exile after political and ideological clashes with the country's leadership, has prompted reformists to challenge the authorities despite the clampdown.

Clashes have broken out at a number of memorial services to Montazeri since his death on December 19.

Authorities have threatened tough action to suppress public displays of what they describe as "illegal" activities.

Reformist websites say that Iranian authorities have banned memorial gatherings for Montazeri in most parts of Iran.

Many observers expect renewed opposition demonstrations in connection with ceremonies on December 27, the Shi'ite holiday of Ashura.

written by Andy Heil based on reports by Radio Farda's Mazyar Mokfi