"Among the eight dead are two members of security forces," said the political and security chief of Esfahan province, Mehdi Taheri, quoted by the student news agency ISNA on Sunday.

The Kayhan newspaper had reported earlier that four protestors and two police officers had been killed in the clashes.

Another 150 people, 70 civilians and 80 police, were wounded in the clashes, which took place on Saturday, he added. Interior Minister Abvulvahed Mussavi-Lari has sent a committee to investigate the deaths, his ministry said.

The clashes broke out following an Interior Ministry decision to exclude the village of Vardasht from the Samirom district and include it in another newly-created district.

"Protestors hostile to the administrative changes went into the streets, but trouble-makers later joined them and messed up the demonstration," Taheri said.

Defending village ties

State radio said that some protestors had "set fire to tyres and smashed the windows of shops, homes, cars and public buildings, leading to the deaths of several people."

The Baztab Internet site, close to conservatives and usually reliable, said some 3000 people had taken part in the unrest and added that police had been shot at.
 
Samirom residents were angered by the decision on Vardasht because of the long-standing ties between the two villages, which are still dominated by a nomadic culture and where many people are armed, one local official said on condition of anonymity.

Samirom lies in the far south of the central province of Esfahan. The deputy governor of the province said that authorities had managed to restore calm in the town, after the interior ministry promised to reverse the decision on Vardasht.

Planned administrative changes have sparked bloody protests in Iran on several occasions in recent years.