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12 Jun 2009 11:212 Comments
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Headlines, Features, Reports [June 2009]

Story from BBC NEWS:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/middle_east/8099115.stm

Ahmadinejad defiant on 'free' Iran poll

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has defended his "completely free" re-election as Iran's president, amid violent clashes on the streets over claims of election fraud.

Mr Ahmadinejad condemned the outside world for "psychological warfare" against Iranians during the election.

Thousands have protested against the result, burning barricades on the streets of Tehran and clashing with police, who responded with tear gas.

Reformist candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi urged his supporters to avoid violence.

'Down with the dictator'

Speaking on national television, Mr Ahmadinejad praised the Iranian people for choosing to "look toward the future" rather than returning to the past.

"This is a great victory at a time and condition when the whole material, political and propaganda facilities outside of Iran and sometimes... inside Iran, were total mobilised against our people," he said.

He blamed "foreign media" for instigating a "full-fledged fight against our people".

"Nearly 40 million people took part in a totally free election," he said.

However, the official result, which gave Mr Ahmadinejad a resounding victory - 63% of the vote against 34% for Mr Mousavi - brought the worst violence seen in Tehran for a decade, correspondents said.

The BBC's John Simpson saw secret policemen being attacked and chased away by protesters, which he says is extremely rare.

Some of the protesters in Tehran wore Mr Mousavi's campaign colour of green and chanted "Down with the dictator", news agencies report.

Four police motorbikes were set on fire near the interior ministry, where votes had been counted, our correspondent says.

Interior Minister Sadeq Mahsouli warned that any demonstrations needed official permission, and none had been given.

One opposition newspaper has been closed down and BBC websites also appear to have been blocked by the Iranian authorities. The AP news agency reports that mobile phone services have been blocked in Tehran.

Ayatollah's call

Mr Mousavi urged calm in his website statement.

"The violations in the election are very serious and you are right to be deeply hurt," he said.

John Simpson Reporting from Tehran

A crowd of about 3,000 attacked the police, some of whom were on motorbikes, which they set on fire.

The sky was thick with black smoke. Police attacked the crowd with sticks and maybe teargas.

I didn't expect to see people turning on the secret police. We were filming when we were surrounded by angry secret policemen. The crowd turned on them and chased them off.

I suspect we are not looking at a revolution but there is serious anger.

It all depends on how the government responds - if they use violence, that could inflame the situation.

"But I firmly call on you not to subject any individual or groups to hurt."

Mr Mousavi earlier said the election was a "charade".

"I personally strongly protest the many obvious violations and I'm warning I will not surrender to this dangerous charade.

"The result of such performance by some officials will jeopardise the pillars of the Islamic Republic and will establish tyranny."

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who wields ultimate power, urged all Iranians "including yesterday's competitors" to support the re-elected president.

He described the count as a "real celebration", praised the high turnout of 85% and called for calm. "Enemies may want to spoil the sweetness of this event... with some kind of ill-intentioned provocations," the ayatollah said.

winning more than 50% of the vote, in order to force a run-off election.

The BBC's Jon Leyne in Tehran says the result has been greeted with surprise and with deep scepticism by many Iranians.

The figures, if they are to be believed, show winning strongly even in the heartland of Mr Mousavi.

Our correspondent says Mr Ahmadinejad will feel emboldened in his global vision that foresees the death of capitalism, while at home, many Iranians will fear a clamp down on society and cultural life.

Surge of interest

There had been a surge of interest in with unprecedented live television debates between the candidates and rallies attended by thousands.

There were long queues at polling stations on Friday, with turnout reaching 85%.

Four candidates contested the election, with Mohsen Razai and Mehdi Karroubi only registering about 1% of the vote each.

known as Velayat-e Faqih, or "Rule by the Supreme Jurist", who is currently Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

It was adopted by an overwhelming majority in 1979 following the Islamic revolution which overthrew the autocratic Western-backed Shah.

But the constitution also stipulates that the people are the source of power and the country holds phased presidential and parliamentary elections every four years.

All candidates are vetted by the powerful conservative-controlled Guardian Council, which also has the power to veto legislation it deems inconsistent with revolutionary principles.

Khatami's Clerical Group Urges Annulling Iran Poll Results

TEHRAN (AFP) -- The clerical group of former reformist president Mohammad Khatami called on Saturday for a re-staging of the presidential vote which saw incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad emerge victorious.

The Combatant Clerics' Assembly, whose members comprise reformist and moderate clerics, expressed concern at a "massive engineering of votes" in Friday's election - echoing comments by Ahmadinejad's main challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi.

"The assembly concludes that annulling this election and repeating the vote in a fairer and more logical atmosphere is the right way to retrieve public trust and sustain the national reconciliation with voting," it said in a statement. Meanwhile, the main mobile telephone network in Iran was cut in the capital Tehran Saturday evening while popular Internet Web sites Facebook and YouTube also appeared to be blocked, correspondents said.

The communication cuts came after Ahmadinejad won a landslide re-election victory, sparking rioting in the streets by opposition supporters who claimed the result had been rigged.

The mobile phone network stopped working at 1730 GMT, just before Ahmadinejad went on television to declare the election a "great victory" and even as baton- wielding police were clashing with protestors in the streets of Tehran, according to witnesses.

Iran has two national networks run by state-owned MCI (Telecommunication Company of Iran) and the private firm Irancell.

Several Iran-based users logging on via different Internet service providers, meanwhile, said they could reach neither Facebook nor YouTube - the two websites used effectively by young supporters of Ahmadinejad's moderate rival Mir Hossein Mousavi.

TEHRAN, June 13 (Reuters) - Scuffles broke out early on Saturday between police and supporters of moderate presidential candidate Mirhossein Mousavi in a Tehran square, a Reuters witness said.The incident took place after the election commission said President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had a strong lead over Mousavi in early counting of votes from Friday's presidential election.

Police intervened against the crowd of chanting Mousavi supporters who had gathered at Tehran's Fatimi square after warning them to disperse, the witness said.

Police have banned street gatherings until official election results are announced, but the official IRNA news agency said Ahmadinejad supporters were celebrating in various places in the capital.

Mousavi has called emergency press conference to dispute IRNA claims of Ahmadinejad victory. 11 pm: Africa Street/Taheri; No. 76, Suite #1

TEHRAN, June 12, 2009 (AFP) - Reformist challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi won Iran's presidential election on Friday with 65 percent of the vote, a close aide to the former premier claimed.

"According to the information received from provinces and from Tehran, Mousavi has got 65 percent of the votes cast," Ali Akbar Mohatshemi-Pour told AFP.

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Amid election, police launch maneuver in Tehran [Press TV] Deputy head of Tehran Police, Colonel Mohsen Khancharli Iran's law enforcement forces have launched a maneuver in the capital city of Tehran as the presidential election in the country nears its end. "The Operation Sovereignty began in different squares a few hours ago to ensure the security in Tehran," Colonel Mohsen Khancharli, a deputy head of Tehran's Police Forces announced. read

Ahmadinejad and Mousavi rallies bring Tehran to halt [The Guardian] Iran's election contest intensified today as Mir Hossein Mousavi, the moderate candidate challenging the hardline Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for the presidency, mounted a massive show of strength in Tehran, raising the stakes in advance of Friday's landmark poll. read

Press Roundup courtesy of Columbia University's Gary Sick Iran's election--it looks differnt on the ground

Borzou Daragahi is the LA Times' top reporter on the Middle East. He has returned to Iran to cover the presidential elections that will take place this Friday. In this arti he describes the emerging coalition of influential power brokers arrayed against Ahmadinejad.

A different take is provided by Scott Peterson, the Middle East reporter for the Christian Science Monitor. Remarkably, he says, there appears to be a movement in Iranian popular support away from Ahmadinejad-- even in the rural areas where he has lavished money and attention over the past four years.

The combined view of Iranian politics provided by these two veteran reporters -- from the smoke-filled rooms of the capital to the ground-level snapshot of the campaign in action -- suggests that Mr Ahmadinejad is in real trouble.

Mazier Bahari, another veteran reporter who writes regularly in Newsweek, agrees. He claims to have seen a secret government-sponsored poll in Iran that shows voters shifting from Ahmadinejad to his rival Moussavi by a 3-to-1 margin.

Some of the complications and surprises of the campaign are captured by Farnaz Fassihi of the Wall Street Journal, who is the only one of these reporters who lives and works there on a regular basis. She describes the tumultuous street scene of the campaign and guesses that this outspoken and somewhat raucous atmosphere offers a clue as to what Iran would look like if the political environment permitted just a bit more freedom.

Fassihi says that Ahmadinejad has shocked people by denouncing pervasive corruption at high levels everywhere in the Islamic Republic -- the very system that he represents. His opponents have lashed back in language that would warm the heart of the most staunch critic of Iran's president, denouncing him and his followers as "delusional fanatics" who have ruined Iran's economy and international standing. "We are up against a person who says black is white and four times four equals five. He looks into the camera and lies with self-confidence," said Mr. Mousavi, alluding to the president's appearance in a live televised debate Sunday night with Mr. Karroubi. "There is nothing worse than when a government lies to its own people."

Hmmm. Sounds almost like the Democrats running against Bush/Cheney.

Washington Iran observer Trita Parsi says that Ahmadinejad has a plurality of the vote, but not the necessary 50+% to avoid a runoff. However, Parsi comments that Ahmadinejad is getting some help from hardliners in the U.S. Congress and elsewhere, whose efforts to put pressure on Iran always work to the advantage of fellow hardliners in Iran. (The hardliners in both countries depend on each other to validate their own extreme positions. Presumably, that is why a well-known neocon recently admitted publicly that he supported Ahmadinejad.)

Once again we have an opportunity to demonstrate our remarkable ability to repeatedly shoot ourselves in the foot.

Secret Poll Shows Voters Turn Against Ahmadinejad [Newsweek] Mahmoud Ahmadinejad--Holocaust denier, nuclear aspirant and the West's favorite bugbear--may soon become the ex-president of Iran. According to recent government-funded polls seen by NEWSWEEK, some 16 million to 18 million Iranians say they plan to vote for his main rival, Mir Hossein Mousavi, on June 12--compared with just 6 million to 8 million for Ahmadinejad. If the polls prove correct, that will sweep Mousavi to victory in the first round of voting. This is a tidal shift from just four weeks ago, when public polls showed Ahmadinejad ahead by 50 percent, and the turnaround has shocked the country's political elite. read

Iran's presidential election: No certain outcome [The Economist] If it were not that Iran's presidential election will determine the fate of a large, ancient nation, and perhaps also the chances of peace in a vital region of the world, the spectacle might simply be hugely entertaining. In this religion-diluted quasi-democracy, where politics tends to be expressed in ritual public chanting or sullen private apathy, the contest has evolved unexpectedly into a bare-knuckled slugging match, complete with taunting rhetoric, dirty tricks and colourful, rowdy fans. Rather than leading to a widely predicted first-round win for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the fight has thrown Iran's ebullient, controversial president on the defensive. read

Ahmadinejad, Karroubi clash over economics, ethics [AFP] Iranian President Mahmoud Ahamdinejad clashed with reformist rival Mehdi Karroubi in a televised debate Saturday, defending his controversial economic policies and questioning the cleric's integrity. Karroubi himself accused Ahmadinejad of dishonesty after the incumbent president painted a picture of the economy the cleric said was unreal. read

Supporters of Iran presidential candidates clash [Reuters] Thousands of supporters of hardline Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his main moderate challenger clashed in Tehran on Friday, a week before Iran's presidential election. After sporadic fist-fights and shoving between the supporters of Ahmadinejad and former prime minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, police forced the demonstrators to disperse and no one was badly hurt, one witness said. "Freedom is impossible with Ahmadinejad," chanted the thousands of mainly young Mousavi supporters in Tehran's Vali-ye Asr square. read

Iran marks Ayatollah Khomeini anniversary [BBC] Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, has strongly criticised the US as Iran marks 20 years since the death of the founder of the Islamic republic. He said the US remained "deeply hated" in the region and "beautiful and sweet" words would not change that. He told the huge crowd at the mausoleum of his predecessor, Ayatollah Khomenei, that action was needed not words. read

Iranian Leader, Rival Express Sharply Divergent Views in Debate [WaPo] President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his main rival in the June 12 election, former prime minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, held a remarkably frank debate Wednesday night that exposed deep differences among Iran's leaders and presented voters with two completely opposing views. read

Lincoln-Douglas debates, Iranian style [CSMonitor] President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad faced off against one of his three opponents, Mir Hossein Mousavi, Wednesday night in the second of six debates leading up to June 12 elections. read

DEBATE TIMETABLE

# Air time: 1800-1930 GMT on IRTV3 Source: ISNA news agency

# 2 June: Karoubi-Rezai

# 3 June: Ahmadinejad-Mousavi

# 4 June: Mousavi-Rezai

# 6 June: Ahmadinejad-Karoubi

# 7 June: Karoubi-Mousavi

# 8 June: Ahmadinejad-Rezai

Iran starts television presidential debates [BBC] State-run TV in Iran has begun showing live debates between presidential candidates 10 days ahead of elections. In the first debate, ex-Revolutionary Guards chief Mohsen Rezai pledged to move away from state economic control and encourage the private sector. National Trust party leader Mehdi Karroubi countered that he would distribute the profits of oil earnings to every Iranian adult. The second of six live head-to-head sessions takes place on Wednesday. read

Barak: All Israeli options against Iran on table [Reuters] Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Wednesday refused to rule out a possible strike on Iran, his comment came just hours after Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the Jewish state would not do so. read

FM: Israel not going to bomb Iran [AP] Israel does not intend to bomb Iran, Israel's foreign minister said Wednesday in the most explicit comments on the matter by a top minister of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government to date. read

Rebels Fire on Bus in Iran, Killing a Passenger [Reuters] Rebels opened fire on a bus in southeastern Iran on Tuesday, killing one passenger, while the police said they had arrested dozens of people in street disturbances in the region in the past few days. read

Iran signs deal with China on gas field project [Reuters] Iran signed a contract with China National Petroleum Corporation on Wednesday for the development of phase 11 of the South Pars gas field, replacing France's Total, the IRNA news agency reported. read | related

Former hostage hails Obama's Iran efforts [The National] Bruce Laingen's last words to the Iranian hostage-takers who had held him and dozens of other American diplomats captive for more than a year were remarkably magnanimous. As he boarded an aircraft to freedom nearly 30 years ago, Mr Laingen, the most senior of those diplomats, told the hostage-takers: "I look forward to the day when your country and mine can again have a normal relationship." read

A New Iran Overture, With Hot Dogs [NYT] Having sent the Iranian people a video greeting on their New Year, President Obama is now inviting them to help celebrate a quintessentially American holiday, the Fourth of July. Last Friday, the State Department sent a cable to its embassies and consulates around the world notifying them that "they may invite representatives from the government of Iran" to their Independence Day celebrations -- annual receptions that typically feature hot dogs, red-white-and-blue bunting and some perfunctory remarks about the founding fathers. read

Conservative rival gains ground in Iran [AP] Some of the biggest election day tests for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may not just come from his pro-reform challengers, but from within the conservative ranks that pushed him to victory four years ago. read

Iran: Can its stories be told? [Nieman Reports] At a time when Iran's policies, politics, and power draw global attention, journalists write in Nieman Reports about the challenges they and bloggers confront in gathering and distributing news and information about this nation and its people. Iranians -- some living in exile, some who've been imprisoned, others working in Iran -- share firsthand accounts of their experiences, as do Western reporters and editors, offering a rare blend of insights on journalists' lives and work in Iran. read | related

Obama says Iran's energy concerns legitimate [AP] President Barack Obama suggested that Iran may have some right to nuclear energy -- provided it proves by the end of the year that its aspirations are peaceful. read

Roxana Saberi and How Journalism Works in Iran [Time] Iran's record of dealing with journalists is certainly stained - the Committee to Protect Journalists has called the country's Supreme Leader one of the world's worst enemies of the press, and several journalists and bloggers have died while in state custody. But to work in Iran you must understand the system through which journalists gain access. This system is complicated and demands much from those it oversees, and anyone who has reported successfully there has been complicit with its entrenchment. read | related

Bomb Said to Be on Flight Almost Taken by Former Iranian President [NYT] Former President Mohammad Khatami was expected to fly on a domestic flight on Saturday night that was found to have a homemade bomb aboard, an Iranian newspaper reported Monday. read

Iran arson attack kills 5 [AP] An arson attack on a bank killed five people Monday in an Iranian city bordering Pakistan where authorities have struggled to quell unrest since a deadly mosque bombing last week claimed by Sunni militants. read

Red Cross repatriates 260 Iran rebels from Iraq [AFP] The International Committee of the Red Cross has helped with the voluntary repatriation of 260 members of Iran's main armed opposition, the People's Mujahedeen, over five years, the ICRC said on Monday. ICRC spokeswoman Dibeh Fakhr told reporters the 260 had been repatriated between the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and April 2008, after having asked to return to Iran. Two more Mujahedeen members have since also returned home. read

Iran election: Rival candidates rip President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on foreign policy [LAT]

Hopefuls bring up topics once considered off-limits, such as nuclear program, stance on Israel. read

Iran makes more arrests after deadly mosque bombing [Reuters] Iran has arrested a number of people it accuses of sowing sectarian discord in a southeastern city where the bombing of a Shi'ite mosque killed 25 people last week, a senior commander was quoted as saying on Monday. read

Pakistan: Iran partially closes border crossing [AP] Iran has partially closed a border crossing into Pakistan following a deadly mosque bombing in southeastern Iran, two Pakistani officials near the border said Monday. The foreign minister said the frontier was open. Qamar Masood, a senior official in Baluchistan province on the Pakistan side of the border, said the crossing at Taftan had been closed for trading but that foot traffic was still being allowed. read

Ahmadinejad vows to reveal past government books [AP] Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad threatened Sunday to release internal documents on government affairs going back to the early 1980s in a direct counterattack against challengers who claim his policies have sent Iran into an economic tailspin and undermined the nation's standing in the world. read

Egypt: Iran less important than peace process [AP] Egypt does not agree with Israel's point of view that Iran's nuclear ambitions are a higher priority for the region than Mideast peace, the presidential spokesman said Sunday. Israel is looking to rally moderate Arab nations around the idea that Iran is the common danger to the whole region. The comments from presidential spokesman Suleiman Awwad, however, indicate that Egypt refuses to let Israel side step the issue of the peace process. read

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2 Comments

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