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Iran Revolutionary Guard threaten protest crackdown

Iran Revolutionary Guard threaten protest crackdown

Residents said riot police and religious Basij militia were out in force.

Tehran: Police broke up a protest in Tehran on Monday hours after the hardline Revolutionary Guards said they would crush any fresh resistance from "rioters".

Yet in a gesture of defiance first used in the 1979 Islamic revolution, and now adopted by pro-reform protesters, people again chanted "Allahu Akbar" from their rooftops at nightfall.

Witnesses said supporters of opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi had gathered earlier in Tehran's Haft-e Tir square.

But Iran's state Press TV channel said they had been dispersed following the arrival of security forces.

Residents said riot police, some on motorbikes, and members of the religious Basij militia, were out in force.

One witness said that from his balcony he had seen a group chanting slogans being attacked by the Basij, who dragged the protesters out of a nearby house to which they had fled.

"The Basiji were really aggressive and swearing at me to go inside," the witness said. "I was scared they were going to break into my house too."

The statement on Monday by the Guards, viewed as the most loyal guardians of the ruling clerical establishment, clearly signalled a crackdown on any fresh unrest over the re-election of hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

"In the current sensitive situation ... the Guards will firmly confront in a revolutionary way rioters and those who violate the law," said a statement on the Guards' website.

Mousavi, who was officially beaten into second place by Ahmadinejad in the June 12 election which he says was rigged, called late on Sunday for fresh protests by his supporters.

Ali Shahrokhi, head of parliament's judiciary committee, said Mousavi should be prosecuted for "illegal protests and issuing provocative statements", the semi-official Fars news agency quoted him as saying.

Embassy aid?

Iranian authorities have accused Western powers of supporting the protests -- the most widespread since 1979 -- and have not ruled out expulsions of some European ambassadors.

Sweden, the European Union's next president, said members should consider drafting a plan to take in and provide aid to demonstrators at their Iranian embassies, while Italy said it was prepared to open its embassy to wounded protesters.

Iranian state television said 10 people were killed and more than 100 wounded in demonstrations in Tehran on Saturday, which defied a warning from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The office of Tehran's prosecutor general blamed the weekend deaths on "unknown vandals" who had opened fire on civilians and killed people on Saturday, Press TV quoted it as saying.

Iranians on social networking sites called for mourning for 'Neda', a young woman shot dead on Saturday. Footage of her death has been watched by thousands on the Internet and her image has become an icon of the protests.

But witnesses said security officials prevented her funeral from going ahead, blocking roads leading to a central Tehran mosque where the ceremony was to have taken place.

"Police were spraying paint on the cars of those who insisted on driving towards the mosque," said one witness.

Her fiance, Caspian Makan, told BBC Persian TV that the woman it identified as Neda Agha-Soltan had been caught up accidentally in the protests.

"She was near the area, a few streets away, from where the main protests were taking place, near the Amir Abad area. She was with her music teacher, sitting in a car and stuck in traffic," it quoted him as saying.

"She was feeling very tired and very hot. She got out of the car for just for a few minutes.

Iran blames the West

Britain announced it was withdrawing the families of embassy staff in Iran because of the violence, which Iran continued to blame on the West -- principally Britain and the United States.

"The promotion of anarchy and vandalism by Western powers and media is by no means acceptable," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi told a news conference.

The authorities reject charges of fraud but a spokesman for Iran's top legislative body, which is looking into complaints by the defeated election candidates, conceded that the number of votes had surpassed eligible voters in some constituencies.

But he said the total votes in these constituencies did not exceed 3 million and consequently would not have any impact on the election," he said.

Defeated moderate candidate Mehdi Karoubi on Monday repeated his call for a fresh ballot: "Instead of wasting time on recounting some ballot boxes ... cancel the vote," he said in a letter to the Guardian Council.

first published:June 23, 2009, 13:20 IST