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Footballers join Iran protests

Iranian footballers appeared at a World Cup qualifier in Seoul wearing green armbands in support of defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi as fresh rallies were held in Tehran.

南宁桑拿

Tens of thousands of supporters of defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi took part 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.

It was the fifth successive day of protests over the disputed presidential election and was called by Mr Mousavi.

Footballers use World Cup match to protest

Iranian footballers used their televised World Cup qualifying match against South Korea to stage their own protest.

About six footballers, including the captain, appeared on the field wearing green armbands in support of defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi.

The news is a blow for President Mahmoud Ahamdinejad, who is closely associated with Iran’s national football squad and reportedly loans his presidential plane to the team to travel to matches.

Crackdown intensifies

The Iranian authorities 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.

In defiance of an official ban, Mousavi himself called for marches and a day of mourning on Thursday for protesters slain in the post-election clashes.

And he repeated his demand for the results of what he branded a “shameful fraud” to be annulled and a new vote called, in a statement on his movement’s website.

Calls on Iran to release prisoners

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 killed

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 now banned

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.”

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