TENS of thousands of supporters of defeated Iranian presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi staged a ‘silent’ protest rally in Tehran on Wednesday against the election results, witnesses said.
They said the protesters marched from central Tehran’s Haft-e Tir and were heading to Vali Asr square.
Wearing green wrist- and head-bands in the colour of Mousavi’s campaign, the demonstrators carried placards accusing re-elected President Mahmud Ahmadinezhad of having ‘stolen’ their votes in Friday’s poll.
Mousavi, who was PM during the Iran-Iraq war was not attending the march, which had been branded ‘illegal’ by the Iranian authorities.
Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei announced on Tuesday that he had asked for a partial recount of votes cast in Friday’s presidential election.
‘I am asking the Guardians council and the interior ministry to examine the said issues so there is no doubt left,’ Khamenei was quoted by state television as saying.
‘If the examination of the problems require recounting of some ballot boxes, it should be definitely done in the presence of the representatives of candiates so that everybody is assured.’
The election has triggered days of opposition protests and deadly unrest and exposed deep divisions in the nation of 71 million people.
In the latest demonstrations on Tuesday, supporters of Ahmadinezhad and Mousavi staged rival rallies, each calling out hundreds of thousands of people on to the streets of Tehran, state media said.
Iran has responded to foreign interference by summoning EU envoys and lashing out at foreign meddling.
‘Enemies, particularly the US, Britain, and Israel are interfering in Iran’s internal affairs, plotting against the government and giving media support to enemy groups, rioters and social and political hooligans who are trying to fuel chaos in the Islamic Republic,’ said the organisers of Tuesday’s pro-regime rally.
‘Hereby we inform all foreign media representatives to avoid any news coverage which has not been coordinated or authorised by this bureau,’ a culture ministry official said.
Mousavi called again on Wednesday for a new vote after the ‘shameful fraud’ of the election.
The 67-year-old former wartime premier, who has lodged a formal complaint over what he says was a rigged election, vowed to continue with his campaign with peaceful rallies, in a statement issued on his website.
‘We are seeking a calm protest against the unhealthy way the election was held and are pursuing our aim of cancelling the election and repeating it in a manner that guarantees the previous shameful fraud does not happen again.’
Mousavi, who had proclaimed himself the victor on polling day on Friday after mounting a lively election campaign against Ahmadinezhad, has said the vote was marred by ‘blatant irregularities.’
Official results gave him 34 per cent of the vote against 63 percent for Ahmadinejad.
‘If the examination of the problems require recounting of some ballot boxes, it should be definitely done in the presence of the representatives of candidates so that everybody is assured,’ he said.
Mousavi supporters have taken to the streets every day since the election results were announced and they staged another ‘silent’ demonstration in Tehran on Wednesday despite a ban on such gatherings.
An email circulated by Internet users called for protestors to march in a Tehran square at 1330 GMT.
‘Please relay the message via email or phone. The gathering will be held in silence without slogans,’ it said, identifying the protestors as supporters of Mousavi and the other defeated candidate Mehdi Karroubi.
Mousavi himself called on his supporters to hold a march and a day of mourning on Thursday for protesters slain in the post-election clashes.
‘As you know in recent days as a result of illegal and violent crackdown on critics and protestors over the presidential election results, a number of our compatriots were martyred and wounded,’ he said.
‘I offer my sympathies to the families and call on everyone to show their condolences to the families on Thursday afternoon in any way possible, by gathering in mosques, or holding peaceful marches and using mourning signs.
‘I will obviously take part in the ceremony,’ he said.
At least seven people have been killed and hundreds arrested throughout Iran in clashes sparked by the election.
‘I condemn the savage acts and killing of people who only want to get their rights,’ Mousavi said, accusing the ‘fraudsters and liars’ of ‘vandalising banks, offices and private property to complete their scheme.’
Iranian presidential candidate Mohsen Rezai warned on Wednesday that he would challenge the official outcome of last week’s election if the interior ministry fails to give a detailed breakdown of the votes cast.
‘The delay in providing data on the election has created suspicion that the figures are being manipulated to match what was announced officially,’ the Mehr news agency quoted Rezai as saying.
Rezai had asked the interior ministry to provide him with a breakdown of the votes cast in Friday’s election in which official figures.
He warned that if the figures he had requested were not provided later on Wednesday, ‘I will be obliged to ask the Guardians Council for something other than a recount of the vote.’
Rezai estimated that he had received 3.5 million votes but official results gave him just 650,000, Mehr reported.
A top Iranian pro-reformist cleric called on the authorities on Wednesday to look quickly into complaints over the disputed presidential in order to assuage people’s concerns.
‘I ask the relevant officials to deal with the complaints quickly, precisely and without any bias to satisfy the people and convince them,’ Grand Ayatollah Abdolkarim Mousavi Ardabili said.
Mousavi Ardabili also called on the Iranian police to avoid violence in handling the protests that erupted across the country after the election.
‘I ask all the security and law enforcement forces to deal with protesters with mercy and avoid provocative actions,’ he said.
Attacks on cultural and scientific centres and disturbing people’s privacy was ‘against legal and Islamic criterion,’ Mousavi Ardabili added.
President Barack Obama Tuesday downplayed differences between Iran’s President Ahmadinejad and Mousavi, saying both were hostile towards the United States.
Obama made his latest comments in the Iranian crisis in an interview with CNBC television, after warning earlier that US ‘meddling’ in the aftermath of the disputed election could backfire.
‘I think it’s important to understand that although there is amazing ferment taking place in Iran, the difference between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi in terms of their actual policies may not be as great as has been advertised,’ Obama said.
Obama also explained his reasons for not allowing the United States to be closely identified with opposition supporters protesting Ahmadinejad’s disputed election victory.
‘The easiest way for reactionary forces inside Iran to crush reformers is to say it is the US that is encouraging those reformers,’ Obama said.
He said he had ‘deep concerns’ about but added: ‘It is not productive, given the history of US-Iranian relations, to be seen as meddling – the US president meddling in Iranian elections.’
Obama said the United States would need to pursue ‘tough diplomacy’ towards Iran whatever the result of its electoral tumult.