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Iran has said it will find and punish the killers

TEHRAN, Nov 25 (Reuters) - Iran has said it will find and punish the killers of a veteran opposition leader and his wife, the official Iranian news agency IRNA reported. IRNA quoted Intelligence Minister Qorbanali Dorri Najafabadi as saying on Tuesday that security forces and the judiciary were investigating the weekend stabbings of Dariush Forouhar, leader of the small opposition Iran Nation Party, and his wife Parvaneh. ``The sovereign Islamic Republic of Iran cannot and will not tolerate such acts of criminality. Any criminal involved in this horrendous and heinous crime will ultimately be brought to justice,'' Najafabadi said. ``It cannot be ruled out that the enemies of Iran and counter-revolutionists, the munafeqin,
may be involved in this horrific crime to tarnish the image of the Islamic Republic of Iran and wedge a gap to create internal differences,'' the minister added. He did not elaborate. President Mohammad Khatami on Tuesday ordered urgent investigations into the killings. Forouhar served as labour minister in Iran's first government after the 1979 Islamic revolution. His party is illegal but tolerated, and publishes a newsletter which often carries exclusive reports of alleged rights violations.

Newspapers and officials have speculated widely over the death of the couple, who were outspoken government critics. Mohsen Rezaei, a former Revolutionary Guards chief who is now secretary of a leading state body, blamed ``pressure groups linked to the Zionists'' for the murders. Iran often accuses arch-foe Israel of trying to destabilise the Islamic republic. Others suggested the death of the two dissidents, found stabbed to death at their home in Tehran, could be linked to the diplomatic row over Kurdish separatist guerrilla leader Abdullah Ocalan. The daily Tehran Times quoted an Interior Ministry official as saying Forouhar was organising a rally in support of Ocalan. The Salam daily quoted a family friend as saying Forouhar expected to meet a number of fellow Kurds to discuss Ocalan's case the day he and his wife were killed. Italy arrested Ocalan on November 12 but it has rejected a Turkish extradition bid on the grounds that Italian law does not allow suspects to be extradited to countries that have the death penalty. Turkish authorities hold Ocalan responsible for the deaths of more than 29,000 people in an armed campaign for Kurdish self-rule in southeastern Turkey and want him to be tried on charges of treason. Iranian police said on Monday an elite task force had been set up to investigate the murders of Forouhar and his wife.

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