Defeated candidate Mirhossein Mousavi has appealed for the result of Iran's presidential election to be cancelled and called on supporters to continue peaceful protests as thousands gathered to hail the victory of incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
REUTERS - Defeated candidate Mirhossein Mousavi demanded on Sunday that Iran's presidential vote be annulled and urged more protests, while tens of thousands of people hailed the victory of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Mousavi's supporters again took to the streets after violence on Saturday, clashing with police in protests that have underscored harsh political divisions exposed by Friday's disputed election.
In a statement on his website, Mousavi said he had formally asked the Guardian Council, a legislative body, to cancel the election result. "I urge you, Iranian nation, to continue your nationwide protests in a peaceful and legal way," he added.
The unrest that has rocked Tehran and other cities since results were declared on Saturday is the sharpest expression of discontent against the Islamic Republic's leadership for years.
The election result has disconcerted Western powers trying to induce the world's fifth biggest oil exporter to curb its nuclear programme. U.S. President Barack Obama had urged Iran's leadership "to unclench its fist" for a new start in ties.
Ahmadinejad waved and smiled at the flag-waving partisans thronging the capital's Vali-e Asr square to applaud the victory he won by a surprising 63 percent of the vote.
Police tackle protesters
About 2,000 students at Tehran University, some carrying Mousavi posters, others covering their faces with bandanas, chanted anti-government slogans and taunted riot police across the road outside. Some threw stones at police when they chased protesters who had tried to gather outside the university gates.
Abdul Reza, 26, standing behind the gates and watching as police charged the crowd outside, said: "Mousavi is the real president of Iran. Ahmadinejad did not win the election."
Mousavi supporters earlier chanted his name in central Tehran and threw stones at police, a Reuters witness said.
Police on motorcycles drove through the crowd to disperse the protesters. At least one person, a woman, was injured. Police briefly detained journalists filming the violence.
Ahmadinejad described the election as "clean and healthy", dismissing complaints by defeated candidates as sour grapes.
"They may be upset by their failure," he told a news conference. "They spent a lot of money to make propaganda (and) expected to win, so it is natural they are disappointed."
He consigned Iran's nuclear dispute to the past, signalling no nuclear policy change in his second term, and warned that any country that attacked his own would regret it. "Who dares to attack Iran? Who even dares to think about it?" he asked.
Iran's refusal to halt nuclear work the West suspects is aimed at making bombs, a charge Tehran denies, has sparked talk of possible U.S. or Israeli strikes on its nuclear sites.
France signalled its concern over events in Iran in the strongest public comments yet from a major Western power.
"What is happening in Iran is clearly not good news for anyone, neither for the Iranians nor for peace and stability in the world," Henri Guaino, one of French President Nicolas Sarkozy's closest advisers, told France's Europe 1 radio.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said repression of opponents was closing off dialogue. "Brutality and never-ending military development will not bring any solutions," he said.
Police have detained more than 100 reformers, including the brother of former President Mohammad Khatami, a leading reformer said on Sunday. A police official confirmed some detentions.
Mohammad Ali Abtahi, who served as a vice president under Khatami, told Reuters the former president's brother, Mohammad Reza Khatami, was among more than 100 members of Iran's biggest reformist party, Mosharekat, who were held on Saturday.
"There are reports a political party was involved in yesterday's incidents. Some of them have been arrested," Iran's deputy police chief Ahmed Reza Radan was quoted by the Fars news agency as saying. He denied Khatami was among them.
'Tired of dictatorship'
Mousavi's wife, Zahra Rahnavard, denied reports that her husband had been detained or put under house arrest.
"People are tired of dictatorship," she told Reuters. "People are tired of not having freedom of expression, of high inflation, and adventurism in foreign relations. That is why they wanted to change Ahmadinejad."
An aide to Rahnavard, who took an unusual public role in her husband's election campaign, said she had tried to speak at Tehran University, but had been prevented.
Interior Ministry officials have rejected accusations of election fraud and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's top authority, has called on Iranians to back their president.
A senior Western diplomat in Tehran said he believed the authorities would soon subdue the street unrest, but said Ahmadinejad's re-election battle had exposed a polarising power struggle between radicals and moderate conservatives which could affect the Islamic Republic's long-term stability.
"There is turbulence in the whole system," he added.
Date created : 2009-06-14