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Brief Iran update

Brief Iran update

Iranian opposition presidential candidate Mir Hussein Moussavi is planning a march of his supporters at 4 p.m. Monday in Tehran, Iranian sources said. He apparently went to see the supreme leader Sunday to seek a permit for it, but one hasn’t yet been obtained. If he is prevented from getting permission, he has said he plans to march to the mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomenei, an act that Iranians say the authorities of the Islamic Republic would be disinclined to prevent.

Iranian sources said former Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani is in Qom, seeking to persuade clerics not to certify the Iranian elections.

Another presidential candidate, Mohsen Rezai, the former head of the Revolutionary Guards, issued a statement today saying he wants to have the ballots examined, Iranian sources said.  

Incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad held a press conference and victory rally Sunday, attended by tens of thousands, as sporadic protests and demonstrations and clashes with the police continued, much of it recorded on Twitter.

Many foreign journalists in Iran on 10-day visas to report on the elections are being told to depart and that they cannot get their visas extended. Several reporters and camera-people were apparently roughed up covering various protests, Iranian sources said, and Ahmadinejad blamed foreign news organizations for the demonstrations. News site Tehranbureau reported it had been taken off line by denial of service attacks, and Iranians said Al Arabiya’s office in Tehran had been shut down for a week.

The Iranian ambassador to Germany has reportedly been summoned by the German government to protest the treatment of demonstrators, as well as German reporters covering the election in Iran.

Other signs of civil disobedience continued.

"Over the past two evenings, the air in Tehran has been filled with loud cries of ‘Allah-u Akbar’ following a request to this end by Moussavi’s supporters," a person in Tehran informed an Iran-oriented list Sunday. "Tonight, the chanting started at around 9 pm local time, and has been escalating since. People in all parts of town are reporting the same phenomenon in their neighbourhoods. Amidst the chanting, you can also hear loud bangs, which are either bullets or teargas being fired …

"One important implication of this action," the note from Tehran continued, "is that it is a relatively well organised civil disobedience, which is difficult for the regime to clamp down on and also catches on easily. This can probably go on for a while even if the street protests were to die down."

A former Western diplomat in Iran responded that the action resembled what occurred in Tehran in 1978, by those seeking to overthrow the shah.

Vice President Joseph Biden said on NBC’s Meet the Press that he thought there was evidence of irregularities in the Iranian election. But Washington’s effort to try to engage Iran would continue, he said, because it remains in the U.S. interest to do so.

"It sure looks like the way they’re suppressing speech, the way they’re suppressing crowds, the way in which people are being treated, that there’s some real doubt" about the result," Biden said.

"The decision has been made to talk," he continued. "Our interests are the same before the election as after the election, and that is we want them to cease and desist from seeking a nuclear weapon and having one in its possession and, secondly, to stop supporting terror."

"The election will make it easier to gain international consensus for harsher measures if engagement fails," a Washington Iran hand said on condition of anonymity. "This fact helps in the near-term by putting outside-in pressure on the Iranian regime to reach accommodation with the West or face serious consequences, and builds genuine consensus for tougher measures to pressure the regime."