Page 2 of 2   <      

Amid Impasse, Rivals Rally in Iran

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.

The supreme leader, who has been far more visible than usual in the wake of the election, also played down the stakes in the disputed election. "Voters had different leanings, but they equally believe in the ruling system and support the Islamic republic," he said.

A spokesman for the Guardian Council, Abbas Ali Kadkhodai, maintained that the election "had one of the lowest rates of irregularities ever." But he raised the possibility that the council's investigation, which he said is expected to take seven to 10 days, could result in the nullification of the results and the holding of a new election, as Mousavi has requested.

"That is not implausible," Kadkhodai said, according to Mehr News, a semiofficial Iranian news agency.

The proposal for a partial recount was met without enthusiasm by the opposition candidates. A senior aide to Mousavi dismissed it as "useless." The aide, Ali Akbar Mohtashamipour, said an independent commission should look into the "widespread violations," and he called for the election to be held again.

For the third time in as many days, Tehran was the scene of huge rallies. Ahmadinejad's supporters gathered in midafternoon at the city's Vali Asr Square, preempting plans by Mousavi's supporters to rally there later in the day. State television provided full coverage of the pro-Ahmadinejad demonstration, including aerial images of a crowd that appeared to number in the thousands, plus close-ups of people holding portraits of the Iranian president in the air.

Ahmadinejad himself was in Moscow, where he said nothing about Iran's problems, focusing instead on the United States. "America is enveloped in economic and political crises, and there is no hope for their resolution," he said, according to the Associated Press.

At the pro-Ahmadinejad rally, a former speaker of parliament, Gholamali Haddad-Adel, drew cheers by declaring that the city of Tehran -- one of the few places where Mousavi officially won more votes than Ahmadinejad -- does not represent all of Iran. He also accused Mousavi of planning in advance to dispute the election.

Two hours later, Mousavi's supporters converged on Vanak and Tajrish squares in affluent northern Tehran, where the opposition candidate has strong support. Unlike Monday's massive march, participants said, Tuesday's pro-Mousavi rally was silent, as protesters mourned the deaths that had occurred the night before.

Holding up their fingers in the V-for-victory sign, the protesters walked quietly toward Iran's sprawling state television complex. Its main gate was closed, and riot police were waiting behind the barrier, eyewitnesses reported.

Also Tuesday, more than 50 members of parliament requested an inquiry into allegations that plainclothes security officers and members of the Basij, which is allied with the Revolutionary Guard Corps, attacked Tehran University dormitories over the weekend. University officials have said students were beaten and their rooms ransacked, but it issued a statement denying that five students were killed.

According to unconfirmed reports, more than 170 opposition figures and dissidents have been rounded up since the election. Shahabnews, a pro-Mousavi Web site, issued a list of 42 people it said were still in custody Tuesday. State television also reported that Mohammad Ali Abtahi, a former vice president and adviser to opposition candidate Mehdi Karroubi, had been arrested.

Staff writer Scott Wilson in Washington and special correspondent Kay Armin Serjoie in Tehran contributed to this report.

<       2

© 2009 The Washington Post Company