In Iran the tense situation continued in Tabriz on Sunday (9 December) despite appeals to the population by the Ayatollah Kazem Shariat-Madari not to demonstrate.
In Iran the tense situation continued in Tabriz on Sunday (9 December) despite appeals to the population by the Ayatollah Kazem Shariat-Madari not to demonstrate. Supporters of the Ayatollah seized control of strategic buildings in the Azerbaijani provincial capital of Tabriz last Thursday (6 December) in protest against the new Iranian constitution which gives sweeping powers to the country's religious leader the Ayatollah Khomeini.
SYNOPSIS: A funeral held in Qom on Friday (7 December) also turned into a noisy demonstration. The funeral was for a revolutionary guard killed during clashes between rival supporters of the Ayatollah Shariat-Madari and Ayatollah Khomeini last Wednesday (5 December).
After Ayatollah Khomeini, Shariat-Madari is arguably the most important clergymen in Iran, commanding the support of most of the country's eight million Azerbaijanis. Shariat-Madari has been a strong opponent of the new Islamic constitution protesting that it concentrates too much power in the hands of the Ayatollah Khomeini whose authoritarian approach conflicts with Shariat-Madari's more liberal attitude. Shariat-Madari has always maintained spiritual leaders should not interfere in government and went so far as to boycott the elections for the Revolutionary Council claiming the mosque was acting undemocratically.
Following the clashes the Ayatollahs Shariat-Madari and Khomeini met to try to find a peaceful solution. After further meetings with the Revolutionary Council on Friday (7 December) it was agreed the Council would consult shariat-Madari on all matters pertaining to Azerbaijan. But the Ayatollah issued a stern warning to the Council that the agreement must be fulfilled to the letter.
Former Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan, a native of Tabriz, was named by the Revolutionary Council as a member of a negotiating team appointed to try to defuse the explosive situation in the provincial capital. A planeload of revolutionary guards sent to reinforce pro-Government security forces in Azerbaijan was turned away from Tabriz on Saturday (8 December) amid signs that the rebel position was hardening.