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Asia-pacific

Supporters of Mousavi and Ahmadinejad stage rallies

Video by Sarah DRURY

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-06-17

Supporters of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and defeated challenger Mirhossein Mousavi staged rival rallies, as Iran grappled with its worst crisis since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Supporters of defeated Iranian presidential candidate Mirhossein Mousavi staged a mass rally in Tehran on Tuesday, the state-run English-language Press TV said.
  
Its correspondent Homa Lezgi was quoted on its website saying the rally being held at Vanak Square had turned into a "massive" one but did not give any estimate of the size of the crowd.

 

At the time of the rally, the cellular phone network was cut in Tehran.
  


Earlier, state television showed massive crowds gathering at a rival rally called in support of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
  
AFP could not reach the site of the demonstrations as Iran has banned journalists working for foreign media from covering "unauthorised" gatherings or those not organised with culture ministry permission.
  
Lezgi said Mousavi supporters initially had gathered at the site of the rival rally, but later moved to Vanak Square.
  
She added that the demonstrators, who were carrying green banners of the Mousavi campaign, were calm, as their chosen candidate had requested earlier through a statement on his campaign website.
  
"Some people in yesterday's march talked about a march today... This headquarters calls on people to avoid the trap of planned clashes," Mousavi's campaign office said.
  
On Monday, Mousavi's supporters held a massive rally with hundreds of thousands of supporters. However, after the rally ended seven people were killed and several wounded when a military post was attacked near the rally, state radio announced.

The United States and its European allies have been trying to persuade Iran to halt nuclear work that could be used to make an atomic bomb. Iran denies it seeks atomic weapons and says it wants nuclear energy only to generate electricity.

US President Barack Obama, who has sought to reach out to Iran, asking its leadership to “unclench its fist”, said he was deeply troubled by the post-election violence and that protesters who had taken to the streets had inspired the world.

A spokesman for the Council, which groups clerics and Islamic law experts as a constitutional watchdog, said only that it was “ready to recount the disputed ballot boxes claimed by some candidates, in the presence of their representatives”.

“It is possible that there may be some changes in the tally after the recount,” spokesman Abbasali Kadkhodai said. “Based on the law, the demand of those candidates for the cancellation of the vote, this cannot be considered,” he told state television.

Despite protests and upheaval in Iran, Ahmadinejad was in Russia for Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) talks on Tuesday on his first foreign trip since official results showed he secured a second four-year term.

The SCO, which includes Russia and China, congratulated Ahmadinejad on his win.

Iran’s English-language Press TV said seven people were killed and several wounded at the end of Monday’s rally—a mainly peaceful gathering attended by many tens of thousands—when “thugs” tried to attack a military post in central Tehran.

An Iranian photographer at the scene had said Islamic militiamen opened fire when people in the crowd attacked a post of the Basij religious militia. He said one person was killed and many wounded in the shooting.

The Basij militia is a volunteer paramilitary force fiercely loyal to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who has the final say on all matters of state and who replaced revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini when he died 20 years ago.

During the past three days of violence, police have accused “bandits” of setting buses on fire, breaking windows of banks and other buildings, and damaging public property.

Iran’s influential speaker of parliament Ali Larijani, a conservative who has been critical of Ahmadinejad in the past, condemned Sunday’s attack on students at Tehran University which they blamed on the Basij militia and plainclothes police.

“They (attackers) have attacked dormitories and brutally broken legs, heads, arms and threw some of the students out of the windows,” Mousavi said, according to his website.

There have been widespread arrests across the country since the election protests broke out. The ISNA news agency said on Tuesday around 100 people were arrested in unrest near a university in the southern city of Shiraz.

 

Leading Iranian reformist Mohammad Ali Abtahi, a former vice-president who backed pro-reform candidate Mehdi Karoubi in the election, was arrested early on Tuesday, his office said.

 

Gunfire was heard in districts of northern Tehran late on Monday and residents said there were peaceful pro-Mousavi protests in the cities of Rasht, Orumiyeh, Zahedan, and Tabriz.

 

Iran’s security forces have at times fired into the air and used batons to beat protesters who pelted police with stones.
 

Date created : 2009-06-16

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