Iran General NewsTop leaders fail to attend meeting in Iran's Parliament

Top leaders fail to attend meeting in Iran’s Parliament


ImageNew York Times: In a sign of the increasing divide among Iranian leaders, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani did not attend a meeting aimed at creating political “unity” on Tuesday, news agencies reported. The New York Times


ImageTORONTO — In a sign of the increasing divide among Iranian leaders, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani did not attend a meeting aimed at creating political “unity” on Tuesday, news agencies reported.

The meeting, which was held in Parliament, was delayed by 40 minutes because Mr. Ahmadinejad did not notify the legislature that he would not attend until the last minute. Mr. Rafsanjani’s office cited a busy schedule for his absence. Only 30 of the 199 invited guests participated, according to the Web site Parlemannews.

Analysts view the failed meeting as illustrating a continuing rift within the country’s ruling establishment five months after the disputed June 12 presidential election. The opposition has accused Mr. Ahmadinejad of rigging the vote.

“A meeting for creating unity at this stage is more like a joke,” said Hussein Bastani, an Iranian analyst and journalist. “There is no doubt that the Islamic republic is faced with its worse internal division since 1981 and there is no hope that there could be reconciliation at this point.”

The authorities’ efforts to stamp out dissent have largely failed as the opposition continues to seize on public anniversaries to organize protests. Opposition leaders have called on their supporters to protest again on Monday, known as Student Day. Dozens of student leaders have been arrested, and the police have warned against any public demonstrations.

The meeting, which was held for a second year, highlighted how tensions had increased compared with a year ago when Mr. Rafsanjani, along with Mehdi Karroubi and Ali Akbar Nateq Nouri, both former speakers of Parliament, attended the meeting.

Mr. Karroubi ran against Mr. Ahmadinejad in the June election and has become one of the opposition leaders; he was not invited to the meeting this year. Mr. Nateq Nouri, a conservative cleric, was sidelined after Mr. Ahmadinejad accused him in a nationally televised campaign debate of financial corruption.

Mr. Rafsanjani, one of the leading members of the 1979 revolution, has sided with the opposition, though he has remained quiet over the past few months. He has been banned from leading Friday Prayer in Tehran, and his children have been threatened with arrest on corruption charges.

“Mr. Rafsanjani refused to go because this was not a meeting for unity,” said a person close to him, who spoke anonymously because of the delicacy of the matter. “First of all, he would not sit anywhere that Ahmadinejad would speak. Secondly, the opposition leaders should have been invited if this was really going to be a meeting for unity.”

In another sign of the increasing divide, a senior conservative cleric, Ayatollah Abdollah Javadi Amoli, who had served as one of the Friday Prayer leaders in the religious city of Qum, resigned last week.

Also on Tuesday, Tehran’s prosecutor told reporters that Ramin Pourandarjani, a young doctor who died last month while working at the notorious Kahrizak prison, was poisoned, the ISNA news agency reported.

The prosecutor, Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, said it was still unclear whether Dr. Pourandarjani was murdered or committed suicide. Mr. Dolatabadi said that according to the autopsy report, Dr. Pourandarjani was killed by pills that were mixed into a salad found next to his body. It was unclear what type of pills they were. The worker who had delivered the food has been questioned, Mr. Dolatabadi said.

Previously, the government said that Dr. Pourandarjani died of a heart attack.

As part of his military service, Dr. Pourandarjani attended to prisoners at Kahrizak, which the authorities shut down in July after several members of the opposition died there. The opposition has called his death suspicious.

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