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Cleric says Iran in crisis, police fight protesters

in.reuters.com

Cleric says Iran in crisis, police fight protesters

TEHRAN – july 18 – In apparent defiance of Iran’s supreme leader, a powerful cleric declared the Islamic Republic in crisis after a disputed election, and tens of thousands of protesters used Friday prayers to stage the biggest show of dissent for weeks.

Clashes erupted in central Tehran between police and followers of opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi, who still contests official results that showed hardline President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad had been re-elected by a wide margin.

“Police fired teargas and beat supporters of Mousavi in Keshavarz Boulevard,” a witness said, adding that protesters were carrying hundreds of green banners — Mousavi’s campaign colour — and chanting “Ahmadinejad, resign, resign”.

State television showed footage of police firing tear gas to disperse protesters, chanting “Death to dictator” and “Mousavi we support you”.

Some demonstrators shouted “Death to Russia” in protest at Moscow’s declared recognition of Ahmadinejad’s election win.

Protest cries of Allahu Akbar (God is Greatest) were heard from Tehran rooftops again overnight and they were longer-lived than on previous evenings in the capital.

Former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a moderate who backed Mousavi’s election campaign, said many Iranians had doubts about the official result of the June 12 vote.

“I hope with this sermon we can pass through this period of hardships that can be called a crisis,” said the influential cleric, leading prayers for the first time since the poll.

Live state radio broadcasts of Friday prayers at Tehran University, with a dual religious and political sermon delivered by a top cleric, have been a staple of revolutionary Iran.

Rafsanjani did not go as far as Mousavi and reformist candidate Mehdi Karoubi in denouncing the conduct of the vote, but his remarks still posed a clear challenge to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has upheld the election result and accused foreign powers of fomenting the unrest.

Karoubi was physically beaten at the prayers, the state news agency IRNA quoted Tehran’s governor Morteza Tamaddon as saying, blaming the beating on “the elements behind this suspicious event”.

ARRESTS

Some hardline clerics support Ahmadinejad, but other senior Shi’ite prelates, including Grand Ayatollahs Yusof Saanei and Hossein Ali Montazeri, have criticised the authorities.

In the streets outside Tehran University, police used teargas and batons to disperse Mousavi supporters who had flocked to the prayers. At least 15 people were arrested, a witness said.

Mousavi, prime minister in the 1980s, attended the ceremony in his first official public appearance since the presidential vote, which he says was rigged. The authorities deny any fraud.

Rafsanjani, who heads the Assembly of Experts — a powerful body that can in theory dismiss the supreme leader — attacked the way authorities had handled the poll and its aftermath.

“When people are not in the scene and their votes are not there, that government is not Islamic,” he said, referring to opposition charges of vote-rigging. “Today is a bitter day.”

Rafsanjani said it was vital to restore voters’ faith in the system. “That trust cannot be brought back in a day or a night … We have all been harmed,” he added, calling for unity.

He criticised the Guardian Council, a clerical body which vets candidates and considers election complaints, for failing to do its job even though it was given five extra days to make its assessment. The council has denied any irregularities.

Using harsh language against the use of security forces to quell protests, Rafsanjani, who was a close aide to Iran’s late revolutionary founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, said:

“We knew what Imam Khomeini wanted. He didn’t want the use of terror or arms, even in fights (for the revolution).”

The election stirred the most striking display of internal unrest in Iran, the world’s fifth biggest oil exporter, since the 1979 revolution and exposed deep rifts in its ruling elite.

“If the Islamic and Republican sides of the revolution are not preserved, it means we have forgotten the principles of the revolution,” said Rafsanjani, who was enraged during the election campaign when Ahmadinejad accused him of corruption.

At least 20 people died in post-election violence. Mousavi and the authorities blame each other for the bloodshed. Riot police and religious Basij militia eventually suppressed the street demonstrations, but Mousavi has remained defiant.

Rafsanjani also demanded the immediate release of people detained in the unrest and called for press curbs to be relaxed. Some of his own relatives, including his daughter Faezeh, were arrested briefly for joining pro-Mousavi rallies.

“It is not necessary for us to have a number of people in prisons … we should allow them to return to their families,” he said, in an emotional tone. “It is not necessary to pressure media. We should allow them to work freely within the law.”

Rafsanjani’s robust stance appeared to set him on collision course with Khamenei, who has overtly backed Ahmadinejad in a departure from the supreme leader’s accepted role as a lofty clerical arbiter above the political fray.

The election has further strained ties between Iran and the West, already at odds over Tehran’s nuclear programme. Western powers criticised the crackdown. Iran accused them of meddling.

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Ahmadinejad: Iran will “bring down” Western foes

in.reuters.com

Ahmadinejad: Iran will “bring down” Western foes

TEHRAN – july 17  – Iran’s re-elected President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Thursday his next government “would bring down the global arrogance”, signalling a tougher approach towards the West after June’s disputed election.

“The Iranian nation elected somebody they (Iran’s enemies) did not want. The Iranian nation’s choice was their nightmare,” the hardline president told a big crowd at the country’s most prominent religious shrine in the northeastern city of Mashhad.

Ahmadinejad’s fierce attack on Tehran’s “enemies” is likely to further disappoint the United States and its allies, which are trying to engage the Islamic Republic in direct talks over its nuclear programme.

Western leaders have criticised a crackdown on protests that followed the June 12 presidential election, which the defeated moderate candidate Mirhossein Mousavi says was rigged.

Ahmadinejad said enemies had tried to interfere and foment aggression in Iran. He said Tehran wanted “logic and negotiations” but that Western powers had insulted the nation and should apologise.

Iranian leaders often refer to the United States and its allies as the “global arrogance”.

“As soon as the new government is established, with power and authority, ten times more than before, it will enter the global scene and will bring down the global arrogance,” he said.

“They should wait as a new wave of revolutionary thinking … from the Iranian nation is on the way and we will not allow the arrogant (powers) to even have one night of good sleep,” Ahmadinejad said, according to state broadcaster IRIB.

The head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation, an ally of former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a rival of Ahmadinejad, has stepped down from the post after 12 years, Iranian media reported, without saying whether Gholamreza Aghazadeh’s resignation was linked to the election.

NO “UNDESIRABLE SCENES”

In what would be his first official public appearance since the vote, Mousavi plans to attend Friday prayers in Tehran, to be led by Rafsanjani, an influential cleric who backed him in the election, Mousavi’s website said.

Clearly reflecting concern the event may turn into a show of strength by Ahmadinejad’s pro-reform opponents, Intelligence Minister Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejei told Fars News Agency:

“The vigilant Iranian nation must be aware that tomorrow’s sermon should not turn into an arena for undesirable scenes.”

A reformist newspaper, Etemad, said Mousavi had voiced continued defiance in a meeting on Tuesday with the family of 19-year-old Sohrab Aarabi, who human rights activists say was killed during last month’s demonstrations.

Mousavi has said he will join a planned group of leading figures to follow up people’s rights and “ignored” votes.

“God willing, we will all move forward in the way that we have chosen … This is an irreversible path,” he told Aarabi’s mother, Etemad reported.

At least 20 people died in post-election violence which the authorities have portrayed as the work of local subversives and foreign powers.

“In this recent election the enemy tried to bring the battlefront to the interior of this country,” said Ahmadinejad, who has earlier described the vote as the world’s “healthiest.”

He added, in comments translated by English-language Press TV: “But I have told the enemies … that this nation … will strike you in the face so hard you will lose your way home.”

He also voiced continued defiance in the row over Iran’s nuclear activities, saying major powers “will not be able to take away the smallest amount of Iran’s rights”.

Iran says its nuclear programme is for peaceful power purposes. Western countries suspect it is aimed at making bombs.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday Iran’s intentions were unclear following its election and that President Barack Obama’s offer of talks with Tehran was not open-ended.

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Iran opposition leaders call for protesters release

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An Iranian protester residing in Japan makes a peace sign with a green band, the symbolic colour of opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi, in Tokyo June 28, 2009.


Iran opposition leaders call for protesters release

TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iranian opposition leaders urged the authorities to free those detained during post-election protests and criticised the “security state” imposed in Iran, defeated presidential candidate Mirhossein Mousavi’s website said on Tuesday.

“Mehdi Karoubi, Mousavi and (former president Mohammad) Khatami met on Monday and underlined the importance of ending the imposed security state in the country and also the immediate release of detained protesters,” the website reported.

Mousavi and Karoubi, moderate candidates in the June 12 presidential election, have denounced the result of the poll, which saw hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad re-elected.

Iran’s most powerful figure, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has upheld the result.

The opposition leaders also said arrests, which began on June 13, should stop.

“The continuation of arrests and the security state will lead to a more radicalised political atmosphere,” they said, adding that the “wave of arrests should end”.

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