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Rafsanjani daughter arrested in election ire

IRAN'S government said yesterday it had arrested the daughter and four other relatives of former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, one of the country's most powerful men, in a move that exposed a rift among the ruling Islamic clerics over the disputed presidential election.

State media also reported at least 10 more deaths, bringing the official toll for a week of confrontations to at least 17.

State television inside Iran said 10 were killed and 100 injured in clashes on Saturday between demonstrators contesting the result of the June 12 election and black-clad police wielding truncheons, tear gas and water cannons.

State-run Press TV reported that Rafsanjani's eldest daughter, Faezeh Hashemi, and four other unidentified family members were arrested late on Saturday.

Yesterday evening, it said the four others had been released but Hashemi remained in detention.

Last week, state television showed images of Hashemi, 46, speaking to hundreds of supporters of opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi. He alleges fraud in the June 12 election.

The arrests are the strongest sign yet of a serious divide among Iran's ruling clerics.

Rafsanjani, 75, heads two powerful institutions.

One of them, the cleric-run Assembly of Experts, has the power to monitor and remove the supreme leader, the country's most powerful figure.

The second is the Expediency Council, a body that arbitrates disputes between parliament and the unelected Guardian Council, which can block legislation.

The assembly has never publicly reprimanded the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei since he succeeded Islamic Revolution founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1989. But the current crisis has rattled the once-untouchable stature of the supreme leader with protesters openly defying his orders to leave the streets.

Witnesses said some shouted "Death to Khamenei!" at Saturday's demonstrations - another sign of once unthinkable challenges to the virtually limitless authority of the supreme leader.


Rafsanjani was deeply critical of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during the presidential campaign and has the potential to lead an internal challenge to Khamenei.

His daughter's arrest came as something of an internal challenge to Khamenei. In his Friday sermon to tens of thousands of worshippers, Khamenei praised Rafsanjani as one of the architects of the revolution although acknowledging "many differences of opinion."

Thousands of supporters of Mousavi, who claims he won the election, squared off on Saturday against security forces in a dramatic show of defiance of Khamenei.

Iran has also acknowledged the deaths of seven protesters in clashes last Monday.

State media reported a suicide bombing at the shrine of Khomeini on Saturday killed the attacker and injured five other people.


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