TEHERAN 24TH DEC. (IPS) The ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i, deeply humiliated and hurt because of his poor show at the last Islamic Summit held in Tehran, opened Wednesday the green light for religious zealots to go on an all out fight against "disseminators and propagators of rumours".
This was an open allusion to growing divergences between the leader and the new president, ayatollah Mohammad Khatami on a number of issues, including foreign and domestic policies, in the one hand and with senior clerics such as the grand ayatollah Hosseinali Montazeri on the other.
The sharp division and difference of views between Mr Khameneh' and Mr Khatami emerged to the surface during the inaugural ceremonies of the Islamic Summit where the two men pronounced diametrically opposed speeches. The leader, known for his xenophobism, suggesting confrontation with the "corrupt West" while the president was calling on "reconciliation and cooperation" between Iranian, Islamic and the Western cultures and civilisation.
"The enemy is concentrating on spreading lies and rumours on divergences (among Iranian religious rulers). Therefore, to thwart this new assault, one has to consider all those who propagate the existence of divergence as the maker of trouble", he told religious propagators and preachers.
Mr Khameneh'i also used the occasion, the beginning of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan to play his favourite, but worn out record of diatribes against the United States and Zionism.
"Preachers and propagators should not only concentrate of social or individual matters, but also on economic and political problems. Boeing, serving God means also denouncing and fighting His enemies, the Satans, great or small, like America", he said, noting that "the whole of America, the people, the Administration, the Congress were all prisoners of Zionism".
Observers noted that during a press conference held at the end of the Tehran Summit, Mr Khatami surprised the world when he announced that he would "soon address the great American people and open a direct dialogue with them".
Immediately afterward, hard line newspapers, including the "Jomhuri Eslami" (Islamic Republic), which is the mouthpiece of the ayatollah Khameneh'i reminded in the president he should not forget that the foreign policy of the regime is decided by the leader, "who, in the most clear words, has ruled out any normalisation with criminal America".
Analysts in Tehran noted that since the end of the Islamic Summit at which Mr Khatami came out as an undisputed winner, the conservative religious establishment, led by the leader, has stepped up its pressure on the president by arresting leading dissidents, increasing measures to enforce more tightly Islamic canons on the people.
In recent days, the judiciary authority, which, like the armed forces, the intelligence, the law enforcement forces or the radio and TV, are not controlled by the government or the president but by the leader, have arrested Dr Ebrahim Yazdi, the Secretary General of the illegal, but tolerated Islam-based Iran Freedom Movement, Mr Akbar Ganji, a journalist and intellectual close to the president, Dr Habibollah Peyman, another leading dissident. 24129716