Thu, Jul 02, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Ahmadinejad calls off trip to African summit

REUTERS AND AFP , TEHRAN

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called off a trip to Libya for an African Union summit yesterday that would have given him another chance to appear at an international forum after his disputed re-election.

A spokesman at Ahmadinejad’s office said the visit had been cancelled. He gave no reason. It would have been the president’s second foray abroad since the June 12 poll set off Iran’s most dramatic internal unrest since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

In a show of confidence, Ahmadinejad had attended a regional summit in Russia four days after the vote, ignoring huge street protests by supporters of losing candidates Mirhossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi, who both say the election was rigged.

The Guardian Council, a supervisory body, on Monday endorsed the election result and dismissed complaints of irregularities, saying a partial recount had shown these were baseless.

But Karoubi, a reformist cleric who came fourth in the poll, remained defiant, saying in a statement posted on his party’s Web site that he viewed Ahmadinejad’s government as illegitimate.

Karoubi and Mousavi, a moderate former prime minister, have both called for the election to be annulled and held again.

“I don’t consider this government legitimate,” Karoubi said. “I will continue my fight under any condition by every means, and I’m ready to cooperate with pro-reform people and groups.”

The government halted the publication yesterday of Karoubi’s Etemad Melli party’s newspaper after said he would refuse to recognize Ahmadinejad’s re-election, the party said on its Web site.

“They wanted the statement censored and not published — so the newspaper will not be published today,” the party said.

The newspaper is one of the few reformist publications to have survived a crackdown under Ahmadinejad’s rule. However, it chief editor Mohammad Ghoochani is among scores of reformist leaders and journalists detained in a crackdown on activists and protesters in the wake of the disputed election.

Karoubi, a white-bearded cleric who was close to Iran’s revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, demanded the release of “thousands” of people arrested during the unrest.

“What is most important now is to preserve our revolutionary and political attitude and confront those who want to sideline us. We should all preserve our revolutionary unity,” he said.

Iran has accused foreign powers, notably Britain and the US, of fomenting the post-election demonstrations.

The semi-official Fars news agency said one of three local staff of the British embassy still detained in Tehran had helped organize the protests, in which at least 20 people were killed.

“Among the three detained British embassy staff there was one who ... had a remarkable role during the recent unrest in managing it behind the scenes,” it said, citing no source.

The authorities detained nine Iranian employees at the British embassy on Sunday. The Iranian Foreign Ministry said on Monday five had been freed and four were still being questioned.

The report by Fars, which first reported the detentions, suggested that another employee had been freed since then.

As hardliners try to consolidate their grip, the next formal step is for Khamenei to confirm Ahmadinejad as president. Parliament will swear him in a few weeks later.

“I will not take part in any ceremonies related to this government such as the swearing-in ceremony,” Karoubi said.

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