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Iranian spy chief resigns over killings; Intelligence leader's move heartens reformist forces


TEHRAN, Iran -- The head of Iran's intelligence ministry resigned yesterday in the continuing political fallout from revelations that agents killed at least two dissident writers and two nationalist politicians last year.

The resignation of Qorbanali Dorri-Najafabadi, reportedly along with two of his deputies, is an seen as an important victory for reformist forces, allowing President Mohammed Khatami to exert at least partial control over the Information Ministry, the somewhat misleading name of the body that gathers internal and external intelligence.

The ministry has been a bastion of conservatives resisting a trend toward greater democracy and openness.

Conservatives also dominate the parliament, the judiciary and the army, while reformers lined up behind Khatami are making inroads in most other Iranian institutions.

Facing a public uproar over the killings in November and December, the Information Ministry made the startling admission last month that they had been carried out by some of its "renegade" agents.

These agents are said to be under arrest.

The confession that at least some agents of the regime had been caught killing dissidents and they would be held accountable was a first for Iran, and gave the reform camp a boost.

If Khatami succeeds in inserting his people in the ministry, it means that the conservatives will "lose that power base."

"It will either be neutralized, or the reformers will gain control and be able to use it as an institution for the rule of law," said political scientist Nasser Hadian.

The English-language Iran Daily reported that Ali Yunesi, a cleric who has been in charge of military courts, would replace Dorri-Najafabadi.

Dorri-Najafabadi, 53, is widely believed to have been forced on Khatami by conservatives in the parliament when the president was forming his Cabinet in 1997.

Khatami earlier had named Yunesi, 43, to lead a special commission to look into the killings.

Pub Date: 2/10/99

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