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Influential Allies Censure Ahmadinejad Over Delay in Deputy's Dismissal

"There were no slogans, but many cars were blowing their horns. Riot police on red motorcycles did not intervene but were present all around," one witness said. "All shops were closed on orders of the security forces."

Two other witnesses said authorities fired tear gas and made arrests at the protest.

Similar demonstrations were reported Friday in the nearby town of Karaj.

Leading Ahmadinejad opponents issued a letter Saturday urging senior clerics to speak out against arrests and repression since the election. Mir Hossein Mousavi, the unofficial leader of the movement calling for an annulment of the vote, joined other opposition figures in asking the country's grand ayatollahs to warn the government.

There are about 20 of these top Shiite clerics worldwide. Many of them have hundreds of thousands of followers but steer clear of politics. Some have spoken out against the postelection violence in Iran, asking for the people's will to be heard.

Even though they often have no positions, the grand ayatollahs wield political clout in a system based on clerical rule.

"How can we be silent against all this violence and beastliness and claim that this system is divine and follows the prophet's teachings?" the politicians asked in their letter, which was published on the Parleman News Web site.

"We request you sources of imitation to warn the responsible authorities on the negative results of their illegal activities, and to caution them on the increase of injustice in the Islamic Republic System."

Also Saturday, the commander in chief of the Revolutionary Guard Corps said Iran would strike Israel's nuclear facilities if the Jewish state attacked, state television reported.

"We are not responsible for this regime and other enemies' foolishness. . . . If they strike Iran, our answer will be firm and precise," state television quoted Mohammad Ali Jafari as saying.

Israeli leaders have threatened to destroy Iran's nuclear program, which it says poses an existential threat to their country. Iranian leaders say that the program is meant only for energy production and that nuclear weapons are against Islam.

Jafari denied reports that Iran was planning a nuclear test, calling them "sheer lies."

"Iran does not seek to conduct a nuclear test or any other similar tests," he said.


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