Election Marches in Defiance of Guardian Council; Religious Leader Says Election Fraud Impossible

TEHRAN, IRAN: The NYTimes reported here on Thur:

(…) there were signs of an intensified crackdown: The government worked on many fronts to shield the outside world’s view of the unrest, banning coverage of the demonstrations, arresting journalists, threatening bloggers and trying to block Web sites like Facebook and Twitter, which have become vital outlets for information about the rising confrontation here.

The senior prosecutor in the central province of Isfahan, where there have also been tense demonstrations, went so far as to say protesters could be executed under Islamic law.

As nations around the world urged Iran’s leadership to exercise restraint, Mir Hussein Moussavi, the opposition presidential candidate who the government said finished second, and one of Iran’s chief reformers, Mohammad Khatami, issued a joint letter urging an end to violence and arrests.

“We ask you to take all the necessary measures to put an end to today’s worrying situation, to stop the violent actions against people and to free those arrested,” they wrote in a letter on Mr. Moussavi’s Web site.

Mr. Moussavi also sought to continue the momentum of public protest, calling for a day of mourning on Thursday for at least seven people killed in the demonstrations.

The crisis — the gravest since the Islamic Revolution in 1979 — erupted after Iran’s Interior Ministry declared that the moderate Mr. Moussavi was defeated by the conservative incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in Friday’s election by 63 percent to 34 percent. Mr. Moussavi, the demonstrators who represent a cross section of Iranian society and part of the clerical establishment have called the official results a fraud.

With the nation’s ruling class apparently divided by the results, the hard-liners in charge sought to portray the unrest as the work of outsiders. The powerful Revolutionary Guard said it had taken action against “deviant news sites” financed by American and Canadian companies.

The Foreign Ministry, meantime, summoned the Swiss ambassador, who represents American interests in Tehran, in protest of what it called “meddling” by the United States into its affairs because of statements by American officials on Iran’s elections. It also summoned the Canadian chargé d’affaires over the same accusations. Several other European ambassadors were summoned Tuesday.

America and Iran broke off diplomatic relations after the 1979 revolution.

(…)

“It is a very complicated situation,” said Abbass Abdi, a political scientist in Tehran. “People feel humiliated because they came and voted in large numbers. On the other hand, it is very difficult for the establishment to admit fraud because its legitimacy would go under question.

“There is no legal solution to this dilemma and, we need a solution that neither side would lose face.”

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