Police Attempt To Disperse Protesters In Iranian Capital
Police are reportedly using water cannons and tear gas against thousands of people who have gathered in downtown Tehran to protest the presidential election results despite warnings from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei against further rallies.
Thousands of riot police and Basij militia are trying to isolate the groups of protesters (see raw footage here).
Eyewitnesses earlier told RFE/RL's Radio Farda that the protesters were gathering at three connected sites, including Tehran University.
Another eyewitness told Radio Farda of seeing security and military forces on the roads outside Tehran. The police presence is also reported to be heavy in the cities of Rasht and Isfahan.
Meanwhile, the semi-official news agencies Fars and Mehr have reported that a bomb exploded in Tehran at the mausoleum of revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
Mehr quoted Iran's deputy police chief for operations, Hossein Sajedinia, as saying a suicide bomber blew himself up at the site, killing himself and wounding at least one other person.
The reports could not be independently verified.
Tensions High Ahead Of Planned Rally
Earlier on June 20, spokespeople for some opposition groups had said that official permission could not be obtained, so the previously scheduled rally was cancelled. But none of the opposition leaders have made public statements.
Iran's Security Council had warned presidential candidate Mir Hossein Musavi he would "be responsible for the consequences" of any more protest rallies. The ISNA news agency quoted council head Abbas Mohtaj, who is also deputy interior minister, as sending the warning in a letter to Musavi.
And the semi-official Fars news agency quoted deputy police chief Ahmad Reza Radan as saying the police would deal with the protests "firmly and with determination."
In a nationwide address on June 19, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered an end to street protests, calling the country's disputed presidential election fair and free of fraud.
Speaking to RFE/RL's Radio Farda, Mohammad Ali Ayazi, a reformist cleric in the city of Qom, called for peaceful protests to be allowed to prevent dissatisfaction from becoming violent.
"If [the authorities] are after calm and want that the people's protests to be staged peacefully, the correct way to do this is to let people express their protest peacefully in order to prevent them from becoming violent," Ayazi said.
Also, Iranian state television said the Guardians Council, the country's top vetting body, had expressed its readiness to randomly recount up to 10 percent of the ballot boxes from the presidential election.
The announcement came as press reports indicated Musavi and Karrubi failed to attend an extraordinary session of the council on June 20. The two reformist candidates were expected, along with fellow challenger Mohsen Rezai, to discuss more than 600 objections they have filed complaining about the poll.
The council has so far only offered a partial recount of disputed ballots from the election.
Official results of the June 12 presidential poll gave President Mahmud Ahmadinejad 63 percent of the vote, compared to 34 percent for his nearest rival, Musavi.
Iran has seen massive rallies almost every day since the results were announced a week ago. The London-based human rights group Amnesty International says it believes about 10 people have been killed.
In his Friday Prayers speech, Ayatollah Khamenei criticized the "arrogant" powers and media leaders in the West for their reaction to Ahmadinejad's reelection.
The same day, U.S. President Barack Obama said the "world is watching" events in Iran, and expressed concern at "some of the tenor and tone of the statements that have been made."
Meanwhile, the U.S. Congress voted 405 to one to condemn the Iranian authorities' crackdown on demonstrators and government interference with Internet and mobile-phone communications.
And in a statement issued at a European Union summit in Brussels, European leaders said that "the authorities should refrain from the use of force against peaceful demonstrations."
Editor's NoteRFE/RL's Radio Farda contributed to this report
Copyright (c) 2009. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.