Saturday, June 20, 2009


Iranian police have warned they are ready to use force to prevent a rally in the capital, Tehran, over the disputed presidential poll.
Hundreds of police are said to have gathered in the city centre, amid an atmosphere of extreme tension.
There are conflicting reports as to whether the rally will go ahead.
But correspondents say a demand by the country's Supreme Leader to end street protests appears to have made some protesters merely more determined.
People contacting the BBC from Tehran spoke of a heavy security presence in the area around Enghelab Square. Users of the micro-blogging site Twitter said protesters were gathering.
One witness told AFP news agency that he saw police beating people trying to reach rally site.
The reports could not be independently confirmed, and foreign news organisations - including the BBC - have been subjected to strict controls which prevent reporters from leaving their offices.
Early on Saturday, the wife of defeated candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi and an aide to another rival candidate, Mehdi Karroubi, said the rally would go ahead.


Jon Leyne
The situation is very tense and very confused. We don't have direct, immediate reports from the scene because of course we're not allowed to go there.
It's not even entirely clear whether the opposition wanted the demonstration to go ahead. There were a lot of mixed messages through the day whether or not it had been called off. My instinct is that I think opposition supporters are so fired up, they're going to turn up anyway.
They've been very good at getting messages between themselves very quickly, so it's possible they might move the demonstration if there are riot police in the planned location.
But later reports said first that Mr Mousavi would be making a statement - which still has not been delievered - and then an aide to Mr Karoubi said his party had cancelled the protest.
The BBC's Jon Leyne in Tehran says that even if the rallies are formally cancelled, it is so late now that many protesters are expected to turn up anyway.

See map of central Tehran
Speaking on state TV, deputy police chief Ahmad Reza Radan warned police would "certainly fight against any form of illegal gathering and protest". He also said protest organisers would be arrested.
It seems this may be the big moment of confrontation, our correspondent says.
Tensions have mounted over the previous week, with scores of people arrested and tough restrictions imposed on foreign media, including the BBC.
Recount offer
Official results of the 12 June presidential poll gave President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a resounding 63% of votes, compared to 34% for his nearest rival, Mr Mousavi.

Tough choice for Mousavi
Reporters' log: Iran's upheaval
Key excerpts: Khamenei speech
Living in Iran: Your views

The result triggered almost daily street protests - a challenge to ruling authorities unprecedented since the Islamic revolution of 1979.
Mr Mousavi had been expected, along with fellow challengers Mr Karroubi and Mohsen Rezai, to discuss more than 600 objections they had filed complaining about the poll at a meeting of the Guardian Council, which certifies elections, on Saturday.
But neither Mr Mousavi nor Mr Karroubi attended the meeting - which suggests, our correspondent says, they have abandoned their legal challenge to the election results.
State TV quoted the Guardian Council as saying it was "ready" to recount a randomly selected 10% of ballot boxes.
It had previously offered a partial recount of disputed ballots from the election, rather than the full re-run of the election demanded by protesters.
The human-rights group Amnesty International says it believed about 10 people had been killed in the protests.
On Friday, US President Barack Obama warned Iran that the "world is watching" events there. He expressed concern at "some of the tenor and tone of the statements that have been made".
Ayatollah's address
A new rally on Saturday would directly challenge an order from Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran's spiritual leader and highest authority.
"Straight challenge is not acceptable after the election," Ayatollah Khamenei told thousands of Iranians who massed to hear him on Friday.
"This is challenging democracy and election itself. I want every side to put an end to this method. If they don't then the responsibility of its consequences, the riots should be shouldered by those who do not put an end to it."
The ayatollah insisted the Islamic Republic would not "cheat voters" - and blamed foreign powers, in particular the UK, for fomenting the unrest.
He said "bloodshed" would result if the protests went ahead.
The rally was attended by President Ahmadinejad. But former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani - a close associate of Mr Mousavi, and open critic of President Ahmadinejad - did not attend.
But correspondents say the ayatollah's warning only appeared to incite protesters, and the nightly chants of "God is great" - which have echoed from rooftops around Tehran in a call to protest - became louder on Friday night.
Although the Supreme Leader controls many levers of power, Mr Rafsanjani heads the Assembly of Experts, which has the power to elect the leader, supervise him, and theoretically even to dismiss him, our correspondent says.
Behind the scenes, he says, there appears to be both a political battle between two veterans of the Islamic Revolution, but also a titanic dispute about the whole future of Iran, whose outcome no-one can predict.




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