By Thomas Erdbrink
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
TEHRAN, July 6 -- Opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, appearing in public for the first time in nearly three weeks, vowed Monday that protests against the disputed reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "will not end" and predicted that the new government would encounter problems because it lacks legitimacy.
But the former presidential candidate, who maintains he was denied victory in the June 12 election by massive vote-rigging on behalf of Ahmadinejad, stopped short of calling for new street demonstrations, which the government has declared illegal and largely crushed in a massive crackdown. Instead, Mousavi indicated that the opposition would adopt new tactics, pursuing protest "within the framework of the law."
Mousavi made the remarks at a religious gathering as Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, issued a new warning to Western nations that he said have "openly intervened" in Iran's internal affairs by criticizing the crackdown. "Beware," he said, addressing "the leaders of arrogant countries, the nosy meddlers in the affairs of the Islamic Republic," news agencies reported. Even though Iranians have differences among themselves, he said, they will "unite as one firm fist" against external enemies.
At the same time, however, Khamenei appeared to draw a line against denunciations of Mousavi, who has faced calls for his arrest from hard-line Ahmadinejad allies because of his refusal to accept the officially proclaimed election results. In a speech broadcast on state radio, Khamenei stressed the importance of unity, saying that "friends should not be treated like enemies for the sake of a mistake."
But top commanders of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps were less conciliatory. "Today, no one is impartial," Gen. Yadollah Javani said at a conference, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency. "There are two currents: those who defend and support the revolution and the establishment, and those who are trying to topple it."
Mousavi spoke Monday to about 200 guests at an art gallery of the Iranian Academy of the Arts, which he heads, on the occasion of a holiday commemorating Imam Ali, the most important saint in Shiite Islam, Iran's dominant religion.
"Though it might seem that the protests have become quieter, they will not end," Mousavi said, according to a local journalist who was present. "This protest will continue." He forecast unspecified problems in Ahmadinejad's second term.
"The legitimacy of this government is questionable because people don't trust it," Mousavi said. "This makes the government weak inside even if it keeps up appearances."
According to the pro-Mousavi Web site Parsine, he also said: "When a government doesn't take shape within the framework of the law, it has no legitimacy in the eyes of the people." This "encourages the government to resort to violence against the people," he added.
The fact that "protests subsided or were silenced" does not resolve the issue, Mousavi said. "We need to make efforts to show our protest . . . within the framework of the law."
Commenting on government attempts to control the flow of information, Mousavi urged Iranians to keep each other informed, a local journalist reported.
Cellphone text messaging, which resumed Wednesday for the first time since the election, was again switched off by authorities Monday without explanation.