TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - Iran's hard-line Revolutionary Guards on Saturday accused Washington of meddling in domestic affairs by lifting an import ban on Iranian luxury goods - a criticism that underscores the divisions in Iran's ruling hierarchy.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's announcement Friday demonstrate the ''intensified efforts of the White House to create a crisis in Iran,'' said a statement by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, quoted by Tehran radio. The statement did not say how the Guards, who have hundreds of thousands of men in arms and their own air force and weapons industry, intended to respond.
The U.S. announcement has become the latest grounds for division between anti-American hard-liners and reformers, led by President Mohammad Khatami, who favor better ties with the United States. In elections last month, hard-liners lost control of the powerful parliament for the first time since the 1979 revolution that brought an Islamic government to power.
On Friday, the Clinton administration lifted a ban on U.S. imports of Iranian carpets, caviar and some other luxury goods and invited Iran to enter a ''new relationship'' with the United States to stabilize the Gulf region and reverse more than two decades of icy distance. Iran's first reaction was positive, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi welcoming the U.S. move.
But the secretary of Iran's top security body, the Supreme National Security Council, called it ''new interference in Iran's domestic affairs,'' the radio reported.
Hard-liners control the judiciary, armed forces, broadcast network and the Intelligence Ministry. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the unelected hard-line supreme leader, also is the nation's highest authority.
The Guards, in a statement carried by the official Islamic Republic News Agency, said Iran deserves U.S. compensation for past wrongs. It noted that Albright acknowledged U.S. involvement in a 1953 coup plot, and said Iranians have suffered ''enormous financial losses'' stemming from conspiracies involving the United States.
In her remarks Friday, Albright said the Eisenhower administration believed its involvement in the overthrow of Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq was justified for strategic regions. But, she said, ''the coup was clearly a setback for Iran's political development and it is easy to see now why many Iranians continue to resent this intervention by America in their internal affairs.''
The coup reinstalled Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi as a pro-American bulwark against communist expansion into Middle East. He was overthrown in the 1979 revolution and died in exile the following year.