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Tehran braces for memorial service for slain protesters

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-06-25

Defeated presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi has called for a mourning ceremony for slain opposition demonstrators on Thursday despite a tough warning from Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Wednesday.

AFP - A mourning ceremony for slain protesters called by a defeated Iranian presidential candidate was expected to be held in Tehran Thursday, a day after riot police blocked demonstrators from gathering.
   
Iran's supreme leader meanwhile warned he would not back down in the face of unrest following the disputed vote.
   
Mehdi Karroubi has called for the ceremony while opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, who was also defeated in the poll, has urged supporters to keep demonstrating but to use "self-restraint" to avoid further bloodshed.
   

The Revolutionary Guards, the elite force set up to protect the Islamic republic, has warned of a "decisive and revolutionary" riposte to any further protests.
   
"In the recent incidents concerning the election, I have been insisting on the implementation of the law and I will be (insisting). Neither the system, nor the people will back down under force," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said.
   
It was the latest indication that the clerical regime will not brook dissent over the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad despite a wave of demonstrations and complaints that the June 12 election was rigged.
   
A large number of riot police and Islamist Basij militiamen stopped a crowd of several hundred people Wednesday trying to assemble outside the Iranian parliament building, according to a witness.
   
Another witness near parliament reported seeing police charge at passers-by, who dispersed into nearby streets.
   
Later Wednesday evening a large squad of riot police remained deployed in the area, a source said.
   
In the latest diplomatic backlash over what Iran has branded Western meddling, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Tehran may downgrade ties with Britain.
   
His comments came after the two governments expelled diplomats in a tit-for-tat move, with Tehran increasingly pointing the finger at London over the street violence that erupted in the aftermath of the election.
   
Tehran has accused Britain -- described by Khameini as the "most evil" of Iran's enemies -- of plotting against the election and seeking to destabilise the country.
   
It has expelled the BBC correspondent in Tehran and arrested a British-Greek journalist working for a US newspaper, one of at least two foreign reporters detained by the authorities.
   
Iran's interior minister also took aim at the United States, saying rioters were being funded by the CIA and the exiled opposition group the People's Mujahedeen.
   
Iran has refused to overturn the results of the poll but Khamenei -- who has ruled over the Islamic republic for 20 years -- has extended by five days a Wednesday deadline to examine vote complaints.
   
The authorities have also intensified a crackdown on Mousavi, who was premier in the post-revolution era, with the arrest of 25 staff at his newspaper and vitriolic attacks from the hardline press.
   
Many hundreds of protesters, prominent reformists and journalists have been rounded up by the authorities, including some people close to top regime officials such as former president Akhbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.
   
Another defeated candidate, former Revolutionary Guards chief Mohsen Rezai, has withdrawn his protest about election irregularities, in a blow to the opposition.
   
The last opposition rally on Monday was crushed by hundreds of riot police armed with steel clubs and firing tear gas.
   
The foreign media is banned from reporting from the streets under tight restrictions imposed since the unrest was unleashed, but images of police brutality have spread worldwide via amateur video over the Internet.
   
At least 17 people have been killed and many more wounded in the worst unrest since the Islamic revolution 30 years ago which has jolted the pillars of the clerical regime.
   
US President Barack Obama, who has called for dialogue with Iran after three decades of severed ties, said on Tuesday there were "significant questions about the legitimacy" of the poll but insisted Washington was not interfering.
   
The United States said it would no longer issue invitations for Iranian diplomats to attend July 4 Independence Day parties at US embassies, following the violent suppression of protests.
   
Hans-Gert Poettering, president of the European parliament, said he hopes to lead a delegation of European deputies to Iran to study an election which appears to be "a massive fraud."
   
"I will recommend to the European parliament political groups to send a delegation of the European parliament as quickly as possible to Tehran," Poettering said after meeting Iranian Nobel peace prize winner Shirin Ebadi.
   
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meanwhile said during a visit to France that "such a regime should not acquire nuclear weapons, because this could be a very, very grave development.
   
"What we need is a change in Iran, a change of policies, for moderation, for freedom and for peace."
  

 

Date created : 2009-06-25

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