Defector: Violence threatens Iran unity
CNN / Tom Evan

(CNN) -- As Iran marked the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, a high-ranking Iranian defector warned that the national unity of Iran could be threatened if the government steps up its campaign of violence against opposition groups.

"If they (Iranian officials) move in the direction of violence, they will not be able to control the system and we might move in the direction in which Iran's unity then might be compromised all together," Mohammed Reza Heydari, Iran's former consul-general in Oslo, Norway, told CNN's Christiane Amanpour.

Heydari, who defected after violent confrontations in Iran on the Shiite Muslim holy day of Ashura in late December, has applied for political asylum in Norway. He said that he hopes the strikes, civil disobedience, and non-violent protests in his homeland will "break the back" of the government and force it to listen to what the people say.

"The cause (of) bringing the message, bringing different groups together, is starting a referendum to have free elections in Iran so all these groups can stand together and bring about a democratic government to meet the demands of all religious and ethnic minorities as well," he said.

Heydari's comments came as the Iranian government deployed thousands of police and Basij militiamen in Tehran and other cities to prevent anti-government protests during anniversary celebrations of the Islamic Revolution.

Eyewitnesses said Iranian security forces quickly broke up ... >>>

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