Main Iranian party replies sharply to rising criticism

Iran's dominant Islamic Republican Party, target of mounting attacks from its opponents, hit back Thursday by declaring that criticism of the IRP meant criticism of Islam itself and played into the hands of imperialism.

The party's angry reaction to increasingly bitter criticism marked the latest stage in a long-running power struggle between Islamic fundamentalists grouped in the IRP and less doctrinaire Iranians supporting President Abolhassan Bani-Sadr. It followed on the heels of a series of somber warnings issued Wednesday from opponents of the IRP, including former Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan and 39 fellow members of parliament, who said p olitical violence was pushing the country toward anarchy.

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