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Protesters in Tehran Met With Force Near Iran's Parliament

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.

In Twitter feeds, people who said they witnessed the crackdown described protesters with broken limbs and cracked heads, saying there was "blood everywhere" from the beatings. One said many people had been arrested. Another said people were being beaten "like animals."

Speaking on state television, Khamenei said he insisted on "implementation of the law." He vowed that Iran would not give in to pressure "at any price." He also appealed to lawmakers to temper criticism of Ahmadinejad, saying that the Majlis, or parliament, "should help the government in such a rough journey and must not be too hard on the administration."

On one of Mousavi's Web sites, the opposition leader's wife, Zahra Rahnavard, a former university dean who played an active role in her husband's presidential campaign, said that people have a constitutional right to protest and that the government should not treat them "as if martial law has been imposed in the streets." Saying it was her duty "to continue legal protests to preserve Iranian rights," she called for the immediate release of people detained since the election, including the editor and more than two dozen employees of her husband's banned newspaper.

Rahnavard later denied reports that she and her husband had been arrested. Mousavi has not been heard from in recent days, fueling rumors that he had been placed under house arrest.

"I am still active in my academic pursuits and . . . I continue to object to recent events," Rahnavard wrote. "The system should respect people's right to protest and refrain from violent clampdowns." She said she wished she could have been "executed" if it meant that no one else would be hurt.

Amid the turmoil, the outlines of a political coalition against Ahmadinejad appeared to be taking shape. The influential head of Iran's parliament, former nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani, joined other political figures in refusing to attend a dinner organized by Ahmadinejad, the opposition newspaper Etemaad-e Melli reported. Larijani has criticized the government's vilification of Mousavi and is encouraging state television to give him airtime to explain his views.

Another influential politician, Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, also spoke out against official denunciations of opposition supporters as "anti-revolutionaries," a loaded term in Iran used for enemies of the state. Iranians who took to the streets June 15 "were part of the people, part of the voters, and they had doubts on the election," the Mehr News Agency quoted Ghalibaf as saying. "All of their slogans were in support of the system and the revolution, even though wrongful accusations were made about this. Everything must be explained to the people; you can't solve anything with force and violence."

Top government officials, however, continued to take a hard line on the protests. On Wednesday, Iran's interior minister, Sadegh Mahsouli, accused the CIA, Britain, Israel and an Iranian guerrilla group in exile, the Mujaheddin-e Khalq, of helping to fund "rioters." Mahsouli told the semiofficial Fars News Agency, "Britain, America and the Zionist regime were behind the recent unrest in Tehran."

Iran's intelligence minister, Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei, warned in a statement, "Whoever, under any name or title, collects information in Iran will be arrested, and so far a foreign journalist has been arrested." He did not identify the journalist. A Greek freelance reporter, Iason Athanasiadis, was picked up last week, and a Canadian Iranian filmmaker and journalist, Maziar Bahari, was arrested Sunday morning.

Mohseni-Ejei, a Shiite Muslim cleric, charged that one of those arrested was "disguised as a journalist, and he was collecting information needed by the enemies." He also asserted that "some people with British passports were involved in recent riots."

The governor of greater Tehran, Morteza Tamadon, a staunch Ahmadinejad ally, claimed Wednesday that 800 artists and academics who had visited the United States in recent years were trained to protest the election outcome.

Pro-government media even suggested that Neda Agha Soltan, a young woman whose violent death on a Tehran street on Saturday shocked the world after it was captured on cellphone cameras, was shot from behind by an unspecified terrorist. Bystanders said she was shot in the chest by a Basij sniper.

Branigin reported from Washington. Special correspondent Kay Armin Serjoie in Tehran contributed to this report.


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