According to reports in the Tehran media, the arrests were carried out by officials wearing plain clothes.

 

The Johmyuri-ye Eslami newspaper said authorities must confront the ringleaders.

 

"Officials are responsible for (dealing with) those students who are collaborating with the enemy and fomenting tensions which are contrary to the nation's interests," it said in an editorial.

 

Tempers high

 

Amongst those arrested, an estimated 32 students from Tehran University were detained in the past few days, the Yas-e No newspaper said. While some were held by the Intelligence Ministry, the whereabout of others was unknown, the paper said.

 

Iranian security forces take
no chances

Tempers have been running high in the ruling establishment over the protests, openly backed by the Bush administration. On Friday, a senior cleric was quoted as saying that the "hooligans" arrested in recent protests should be charged with "waging war on God" -- a crime which carries the death penalty.

 

Our correspondent said the sporadic protests occurred mainly in the Tehran university area by a section of students upset over the moves to privatize some universities and impose heavy tuition fees in government universities from next year.

 

Washington which supported the protests, has applied pressure on Iran on other fronts too.

 

The US has accused the Khatami government of developing nuclear weapons, backing Hizb Allah in Lebanon against Israel, providing secure refuge for members of al-Qaeda in its country and interfering in neighbouring Iraq.

 

Except for the backing of Hizb Allah, Tehran has denied all US allegations.