Iran bans Arab party for inciting unrest
TEHRAN, Nov 4 (Reuters) Iran's judiciary has declared an ethnic Arab party illegal on charges of instigating unrest and opposing the Islamic system in the southern city of Ahvaz, Iranian news agency said today.
Ahvaz is the capital of Khuzestan, the heartland of Iran's oil industry, which has been simmering with unrest among the province's mostly Arab population for more than a year.
Iran has blamed Britain, which has troops close by in Iraq, for fomenting the instability. Britain denies the charge.
''The Lejnat al-Wefaq party (Committee of reconciliation) is illegal and ... membership and connection with that party will be severely confronted,'' read a statement from the Ahvaz prosecutor's office published on the semi-official Mehr news agency.
''The activities of that party is focused on opposing the Islamic Republic of Iran and instigating unrest and tension among Arabs and non-Arabs,'' the statement said.
The agency said three of the people who had connections with the party have been arrested in Ahvaz last week.
Judiciary officials were not immediately available for comment.
Five people were killed during several days of anti-government protests in Khuzestan in April last year and 21 have been killed in three separate bomb attacks since then.
Iran hanged two men in Ahvaz in March after they were convicted of a bombing that killed six people last October.
Slightly more than half of Iran's 69 million people are Persians and the rest are ethnic Azeris, Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen, Baluchis and Lors. About three percent are Arabs and authorities are sensitive about protests and discontent in the southwestern Arab territories where most of the oil industry is based.
REUTERS SAM BS1928