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Revolutionary Guards give no-nonsense warning to pro reform press

TEHRAN, Iran, April 16, 2000 (AFP) - Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards issued a stern warning Sunday to the increasingly vocal pro-reform press, darkly hinting there was a severe "blow" on the way from the forces of the Islamic revolution.

The Guards, a pillar of the Islamic regime under the direct control of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, issued a statement cited by state radio castigating the reformist press which backs President Mohammad Khatami.

"When the time comes, these people will feel a blow to the head delivered by the revolution," they said, amid a renewed crackdown by the conservative-led courts and police on reformist newspapers.

They accused papers of writing articles "along the lines of foreign demands" and "attacking the values of the revolution."

They also denounced defenders of "US-style" reforms in Iran, referring to the growing number of reformist politicians who have advocated re-opening dialogue with the arch-enemy United States.

The unusually strong warning from the Guards comes following accusations in the pro-reform press that a murderous "shadow government" actually controls the levers of power in the Islamic republic.

The Guards called on all political forces to "support the government, the judiciary, the parliament and all of the regime's institutions in conformity with the law and under the direction of the supreme leader."

On Friday, Khamenei defended "legal violence" as a means of keeping order in the Islamic republic and insisted that Iran would not move away from the values of the 1979 Islamic revolution.

The power struggle between reformers and conservatives has intensified since the near-fatal shooting last month of Said Hajarian, a close Khatami ally widely credited for helping engineer the stunning reform victory in February's parliamentary elections.

Pro-Khatami reformers ousted their conservative rivals, ending the longstanding conservative majority which stymied many of Khatami's social and political reforms since his 1997 election.

Hajarian is still in a Tehran hopsital after being gunned down outside the offices of the Tehran city council.

At least 10 people have reportedly been arrested in connection with the case, but many reformists have accused conservatives of trying to "bury" the case so that the true agents behind the shooting are never discovered.