Iran General NewsOpposition in Iran urges continuing challenge

Opposition in Iran urges continuing challenge

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ImageNew York Times: As Iran prepares for a major commemorative rally on Wednesday, the leaders of the opposition movement called over the weekend for a renewed challenge to the government, setting the stage for a possible showdown between protesters and the police. The New York Times

By ROBERT F. WORTH and NAZILA FATHI

ImageBEIRUT, Lebanon — As Iran prepares for a major commemorative rally on Wednesday, the leaders of the opposition movement called over the weekend for a renewed challenge to the government, setting the stage for a possible showdown between protesters and the police.

Although the opposition leaders, Mir Hussein Moussavi and Mohammad Khatami, did not openly call for street protests, their remarks were widely seen as a call to arms on a day of considerable symbolic importance.

The occasion is the 30th anniversary of the takeover of the United States Embassy in Tehran by hard-line students on Nov. 4, 1979. The day is marked every year with anti-American rallies.

For weeks, opposition groups have been calling for their supporters to turn the event into a protest against the disputed June presidential election and its violent aftermath. The authorities have repeatedly vowed to put down any protests fiercely.

On Wednesday, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said questioning the results of the elections was “the greatest crime.” He did not refer directly to the Nov. 4 rally, but his comments were widely interpreted as a stark warning that the government would brook no challenges. Mr. Khamenei is said to have been surprised and angered after an annual pro-government rally in September, known as Jerusalem Day, was largely hijacked by antigovernment protesters.

Mr. Moussavi, in his first statement in more than a month, urged his supporters on Saturday to continue their opposition to the results of the election, which he dismissed from the start as fraudulent. He urged them to avoid violence, as he often does, and pointedly cited the Nov. 4 anniversary as a reminder that leaders should follow the will of the people. Mr. Moussavi, who was the lead electoral challenger to the incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, called his supporters “the real owners of the country” and added that “sooner or later, God willing much sooner, the enemies of the people will leave the scene.”

Mr. Khatami, a former two-term president who has joined the opposition, gave a similar speech on Saturday in which he once again questioned the results of the election. He urged opposition supporters to continue their fight, saying, “If we who believe in the basis of the system cannot speak, others who do not believe in it will take action.”

For the first time since the takeover of the embassy in 1979, the government has declared that all groups, including pro-government ones, must obtain permits to demonstrate. Ahmadreza Radan, the deputy national police chief, issued a fresh warning against any protests on Sunday.

The authorities issued similar warnings in September before the Jerusalem Day rally, but to no avail. Hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets.

There have been no major street demonstrations since then, though smaller protests have rocked Iran’s universities every week since the official start of classes in late September.

The authorities have continued to respond to the opposition movement with a mix of firmness and clemency, alternately arresting more opposition figures and releasing those detained earlier. On Saturday, the semiofficial Mehr news agency reported that Morteza Alviri, a top aide to the opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi, had been released from jail.

Thousands of reformist figures were arrested in the unrest that followed the election, and many remain in jail.

Robert F. Worth reported from Beirut, Lebanon, and Nazila Fathi from Toronto.

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