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Iran tells of plot to shoot Rafsanjani

IN A dramatic U-turn from previous announcements, Iran's clerical authorities said yesterday that the shooting on Tuesday as President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was giving a speech was part of a 'well-planned and prepared plot' to assassinate him.

Speaking to Tehran Radio, an unidentified brigadier-general from the Law and Order Forces (LOF) said the gunman and his associates had previously tried 'several times to kill the President during Friday prayers, but they had to cancel every time because of the presence of the people, until they decided to carry out the plan during the 12th Bahman (1 February) ceremonies' (marking the return of Ayatollah Khomeini to Iran after 15 years of exile and the victory of his Islamic revolution.)

In earlier reports, the authorities said the lone gunman had confessed his intention was to create panic among the crowd but not to kill anyone. The reports said a man fired shots outside Khomeini's shrine near Tehran while Hojatoleslam Rafsanjani was speaking.

'The plotters are members of a small anti-revolutionary, anti-Islamic group. The plot to kill our beloved President is part of a well-prepared plan involving foreign countries . . . We are in full possession of the plan, but because of security considerations, its details will be revealed at a latter date', the LOF spokesman said. He did not identify the 'small group' he said was behind the 'plot'.

The authorities have invited the public to take part in mass nation-wide religious ceremonies of thanksgiving for Hojatoleslam Rafsanjani's 'miraculous escape' from another assassination attempt and for safeguarding 'the Islamic revolutionary nation of Iran'.

Violent demonstrations and clashes are reported to have occurred on Tuesday in Zahedan, eastern Iran, involving the locally dominant Sunni population and security forces. Eyewitnesses said scores of people had been killed and wounded, and Sunnis set fire to military vehicles and destroyed official buildings.