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Call for a day of mourning in Iran

Iran’s opposition is set to hold marches and a day of mourning today for slain protesters as they keep up pressure on the authorities over the disputed presidential election in the country’s biggest crisis since the 1979 revolution.

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In defiance of an official ban, defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi called upon his supporters to take the streets again and hold a day mourning for protesters slain in the post-election clashes, in a statement published on his movement’s website.

Tens of thousands of Mousavi’s supporters took part Wednesday in what was billed as a “silent” protest rally, marching through central Tehran, witnesses said.

Wearing green wrist- and head-bands in the colour of Mousavi’s campaign, the demonstrators carried placards accusing re-elected President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of having “stolen” their votes in Friday’s poll.

Iranian state television broadcast brief footage of the rally.

Grappling with the biggest wave of public anger in three decades of Islamic rule, Iranian authorities lashed out at enemy “plots”, hauling in foreign ambassadors and rounding up scores of reformists.

Officials threatened legal action against websites which publish material that “creates tensions” and issued a new warning to the foreign media, already facing tight restrictions on their work.

The media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said a dozen Iranian journalists and bloggers have been arrested and many others have gone into hiding.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini said he would consider a partial recount after the opposition held mass protests over what it charges was blatant rigging of the election that gave Ahmadinejad another four-year term.

But on Wednesday Mousavi repeated his demand for the results of the election, which he branded a “shameful fraud”, to be annulled and a new vote called.

Later on Wednesday, he and former reformist president Mohammad Khatami issued a joint letter urging the Iranian authorities to release those arrested in recent days and end the violence against their supporters.

“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,” said the letter, again published on his website.

Addressed to judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, it denounced violent actions and provocations against peaceful protestors and attacks against students and their halls of residence.

At least seven people have been killed and many more wounded in clashes, with protests reported not only in Tehran but also other major cities after an election that has exposed deep divisions in the oil-rich nation.

Ahmadinejad remained defiant, saying his landslide victory in Friday’s vote showed faith in his government of “honesty and service to the people.”

Khamenei, who has the final say on all matters of state, said he was asking the Guardians Council, a 12-member body made up of jurists and clerics, to examine the complaints of irregularities.

The council said it had invited Ahmadinejad’s three challengers to set out their grievances on Saturday.

Supporters of Ahmadinejad and Mousavi had staged rival rallies on Tuesday, each calling out hundreds of thousands of people on to the streets of Tehran.

Foreign media were banned from covering the demonstrations under tough new restrictions aimed at keeping them off the streets, but Iranian newspapers published pictures.

The authorities have warned they will nip in the bud any “velvet revolution” and have rounded up scores of people in Tehran and other cities, including prominent reformists close to former president Khatami.

Reformist sources said that several more leading figures were arrested on Wednesday, including Mohammad Atrianfar, a confidante of former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, and prominent analyst and journalist Saeed Laylaz.

In a sign of the tensions within the regime, the crackdown drew criticism from some senior conservatives, notably parliament speaker Ali Larijani who spoke out against an attack on students at Tehran university.

The authorities issued a new warning to the foreign media, saying some outlets had become the “mouthpiece of the rioters’ movement.”

The foreign ministry called in Swiss ambassador Livia Leu Agosti, who represents US interests in Iran amid a three-decade-old rupture in relations, to protest against what it called “interfering remarks” by US officials, state television reported.

US President Barack Obama has voiced “deep concerns” about the aftermath of the election, although he added: “It is not productive, given the history of US-Iranian relations, to be seen as meddling.”

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