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Iran's Ahmadinejad Urges Backers to Eschew Violence in Campaign's Final Hours

After a hotly contested election pitting President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad against leading challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi, the government declared Ahmadinejad the winner on June 13. Mousavi's supporters took to the streets to protest the results, and were met with harsh security crackdowns.

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By Thomas Erdbrink
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, June 11, 2009

TEHRAN, June 10 -- President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad urged his supporters Wednesday not to resort to violence as Iran's presidential election campaign wound to a close with massive, competing demonstrations in the streets of the capital.

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Speaking on national television, Ahmadinejad said his opponents know they have lost and might foment a confrontation. "They are trying to create tension," he said, adding: "No one has the right to commit violence in my name."

The president, who is seeking a second four-year term in Friday's election, spoke as his supporters and those of his main opponent, former prime minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, gathered by the thousands at Iran's national television complex and other prominent locations across the city. "Keep your calm. These days will pass, and a bright new era in the life of the Iranian nation will dawn," Ahmadinejad said.

Despite the proximity of the rival groups on the streets, authorities said that both camps were orderly and that no serious clashes were reported in the final hours of the campaign, which formally ends Thursday morning, 24 hours before the polls open. But a senior official of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps charged that Mousavi's supporters were seeking to start a "color revolution" similar to the Rose Revolution that swept away the government of Georgia and the Orange Revolution in Ukraine.

"Any movement for a velvet revolution in Iran will be nipped in the bud," Gen. Yadollah Javani, head of the political office of the Revolutionary Guard Corps, said in an interview with the guards' magazine, Sobh-e Sadegh.

Javani said it was clear that Ahmadinejad was "greatly ahead" in public support and that his opponents were preparing to challenge the fairness of the election.

Javani is not the first military leader to openly support Ahmadinejad. Maj. Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi, chairman of Iran's joint chiefs of staff, said in March, "Some believe they can bring up a new candidate to finish off the issue of Ahmadinejad, but this won't happen; they are making a mistake." Firouzabadi later said he had been misunderstood.


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