Tue, Jun 16, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Thousands join banned rally to support Mousavi

REUTERS , TEHRAN

Tens of thousands of supporters of Iran’s defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi gathered in downtown Tehran yesterday, defying an Interior Ministry ban.

They converged on Revolution Square, where the moderate former prime minister was expected to call for calm after two days of violent unrest in the capital since Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared the victor in Friday’s vote.

“Mousavi, take back our votes,” the marchers chanted as they waited for Mousavi and other pro-reform leaders who back his call for the election result to be overturned.

The EU plans to demand clarification of Ahmadinejad’s victory and voice concern at the treatment of his opponents, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said after talks in Luxembourg with EU counterparts.

‘BRUTAL’

In Paris, French Foreign Ministry spokesman Eric Chevallier said Iran’s ambassador had been summoned to hear French concerns over “the brutal repression of peaceful protests and the repeated attacks on the liberty of the press and freedom of speech.”

US leaders have reacted cautiously in the hope of keeping alive US President Barack Obama’s strategy of engagement with Iran.

Mousavi has asked the watchdog Guardian Council to annul the result, citing irregularities. The Interior Ministry and the president have rejected charges of fraud.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has upheld the election result, met Mousavi on Sunday and told him to pursue his complaints “calmly and legally,” state TV said.

Iran’s reformist former president, Mohammad Khatami, assailed the authorities for denying permission for the pro-Mousavi rally and said the election had dented public trust.

COMPLAINTS

The 12-man Guardian Council, whose chairman, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, endorsed Ahmadinejad before the vote, said it would rule within 10 days on two official complaints it had received from Mousavi and another losing candidate, Mohsen Rezaie.

The council vets election candidates and must formally approve results for the outcome to stand.

Ebrahim Yazdi, leader of the banned opposition Freedom Movement, said Ahmadinejad’s attacks on his opponents had opened a “Pandora’s box.”

“The result of such a crisis now is that the rift among the ... personalities in the revolution is getting deeper,” he said. “It is the biggest crisis since the [1979] revolution.”

Ahmadinejad delayed a visit to Russia yesterday for a regional summit, but would arrive today, an Iranian embassy source in Moscow said.

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