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Taftan, at 4,042 meters the highest peak in Iran's Sistan-Baluchestan province, is a partially dormant volcano and a metaphor for Iran's poorest and perhaps most volatile region.Even more important for Iran's Shiite Islamic regime is that Baluchis, like the Kurds of western Iran, are among the Sunni Muslims who make up at least 10 percent of the country's 76 million, overwhelmingly Shiite population.In last year's presidential election, Hassan Rouhani promised a general charter of rights and, with it, largely unspecified improvements for ethnic minorities. He received clear backing from Abdul-Hamid Esmaeel-Zehi, the popular Sunni Friday prayer leader in Zahedan, and won 74 percent of votes in Sistan-Baluchestan compared to 51 percent across Iran.Part of the problem was that four years ago, the Iranian authorities proclaimed the end of the Baluchi insurgency when they captured and executed Abdul-Malik Riggi, the leader of Jundallah, a forerunner of Jaish al-Adl.Iran is surrounded by mainly Sunni countries and has long accused the United States and Saudi Arabia of trying to manipulate its Sunni minorities.This illustrates how divisive the ethnic issue can be in Iran.
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