Mon, Jun 15, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Iranian president defends election as violence erupts

AFP , TEHRAN

A policeman attacks a motorcyclist with a baton during a protest against the presidential election results in Tehran yesterday.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad yesterday defended his hotly disputed re-election as security forces cracked down on opposition protestors in Tehran, where fresh violence erupted.

Police said they had rounded up a total of 170 people over the massive post-election protests and street riots which erupted in the Iranian capital after Ahmadinejad’s defeated challengers complained of fraud and vote-rigging.

Analysts have warned that the dramatic events could pose a risk to the future of the country, which has been under the control of powerful clerics since the Islamic revolution three decades ago.

But Ahmadinejad dismissed criticism of the election, saying at a press conference the massive turnout was a blow to the “oppressive system ruling the world,” a reference to the US.

He said his margin of victory over his main rival, moderate ex-prime minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, was so wide it could not be questioned and said the election was like a “football match” and the loser should just “let it go.”

But clashes flared again yesterday, a day after thousands of angry opposition supporters took to the streets over the election result, triggering rioting on a scale not seen in Iran for a decade.

In one street, police fired into the air to break up a demonstration, while on another, about 200 Mousavi supporters shouting “Death to the dictator!” lobbed stones at police, who fired back with tear gas.

Among those arrested by police were about 15 reformist leaders and supporters of Ahmadinejad’s defeated rivals who complained of fraud in the most hotly contested presidential election in the Islamic republic.

Tehran’s deputy police chief Ahmad Reza Radan said a total of 170 people had been arrested, including “masterminds” of the rioting, and warned that the security forces would deal “firmly” with the protests.

The election results dashed Western hopes of change after four years under Ahmadinejad, who set Iran on a collision course with the international community over its nuclear drive and his anti-Israeli tirades.

One leading conservative in Tehran insisted that US President Barack Obama’s “motto of change” and “velvet revolutions” had no place in Iran.

World governments have so far reacted cautiously, while voicing concern about the vote-rigging allegations and the election violence.

Official results gave 52-year-old Ahmadinejad 63 percent of the vote, crushing his closest rival Mousavi who gained just 34 percent.

But Mousavi, who has not been seen in public since the vote results, cried foul over what he branded a “charade,” saying it was marred by cheating and election irregularities.

Also See: ANALYSIS: Ahmadinejad’s win deals blow to Obama’s Iran plan

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