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In Iran, Disputed Election Fuels Ongoing Political Unrest

With election protests continuing in Iran, the nation's 12-member Guardian Council has agreed to hear the grievances of Mir Hussein Mousavi and other candidates. Analysts discuss the unfolding developments.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    The Iranian president made a gesture toward the opposition today. It came in a recorded statement aired on state television.

    Earlier this week, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the protesters were like angry soccer fans, or even "dust." Today, he said, "I only addressed those who rioted, set fires, and attacked people. Every single Iranian is valuable. We like everyone."

    And in Washington, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs addressed criticism that President Obama has not been tough enough on Iran.

  • ROBERT GIBBS, White House Press Secretary:

    I think the president has spoken to, in many ways, the causes and concerns of many that are marching in Iran by demonstrating, one, that he shares their concern and the international concern about the way the election was conducted. Secondly, he believes that there is a universal principle of demonstrating without the fear of harm.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Judy Woodruff continues our lead story coverage.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    For more on unfolding events from Iran, I'm joined by Abbas Milani, director of the Iranian studies program at Stanford University and co-director of the Iran Democracy Project at the Hoover Institution.

    And Joe Klein, a columnist for Time magazine, he was in Iran last weekend to report on the election and its aftermath and wrote this week's cover story on the vote, "Ten Days in Tehran: What I Saw at the Revolution."

    Thank you both for being with us. And I want to start with you, Professor Milani. What's the latest you're hearing? I know you've been talking to a number of people today about today's demonstration.

  • ABBAS MILANI, Stanford University:

    Today's demonstration apparently was the largest, it was completely peaceful, and it was organized in spite of the government's very serious effort to disrupt the mobilizing network that people have been using.

    The telephones, for example, the mobiles were shut down for a couple of hours just before the beginning of the demonstrations so that people cannot tell one another where the meeting is going to commence. Many people are afraid to come out singly in the streets because the thugs are reported in some of the neighborhoods to catch people who are alone and beat them up.

    So in spite of these efforts, the people came out, and they came out in large numbers. I think the most important change that today occurred is that both campaigns, Mr. Mousavi's and Mr. Karroubi's, changed their mind. They had earlier asked their supporters to converge on the Friday prayer tomorrow and find a physical way of showing their support for the opposition. They both rescinded that order and asked their supporters to stay out, lest there be a confrontation.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And so why is that significant?

  • ABBAS MILANI:

    I think it's significant in a sense that they are obviously trying to still not have a confrontation with Mr. Khamenei himself. Mr. Khamenei was reported to be delivering the sermon. He rarely does this. It has become a very important moment in these sermons for him. I think this is like an extraordinary State of the Union message that he has chosen to give.

    And had the opposition shown up, I'm sure the regime would have also attempted to bring out its forces and the likelihood of a confrontation would have increased. And I don't think anybody wants to increase the level of violence on either side yet.