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March 5, 2021

Iranian authority offers talks with election losers

TEHRAN – Iran’s top legislative body, seeking to calm days of public fury over a disputed presidential election, has invited the three losers to discuss their complaints on Saturday, its spokesman said on Thursday.

The election has provoked Iran’s worst unrest since the 1979 Islamic revolution. Bloodshed, protests, arrests and a media crackdown have rocked the world’s fifth biggest oil exporter, embroiled in a dispute with the West over its nuclear programme. A spokesman for the 12-member Guardian Council said it had begun “careful examination” of 646 complaints submitted after the June 12 vote. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared winner with nearly 63 percent of the vote against 34 percent for his closest rival, Mirhossein Mousavi. Mousavi wants the vote annulled and held again. The council has said it is ready only to recount disputed ballot boxes.

Council spokesman Abbasali Kadkhodai said Mousavi and fellow-candidates Mehdi Karoubi and Mohsen Rezaie could raise their problems at an extraordinary council meeting on Saturday.

Mousavi’s supporters prepared to heed his call for a day of mourning on Thursday for those killed in mass demonstrations against what the former prime minister says was a rigged poll. Iran’s English-language state television has reported eight people killed in five days of protests in Tehran and elsewhere.

Security agents have detained opposition politician Ebrahim Yazdi while he was in hospital, an ally of his said on Thursday. Yazdi, who heads the banned Freedom Movement and was foreign minister in Iran’s first government after the revolution, was among scores of reformists rounded up since the election.

On his website, Mousavi called on Iranians to demonstrate peacefully or gather in mosques wearing the colour of mourning — black as opposed to the green of his election campaign. He urged them to show solidarity with the families of those wounded or martyred “as a consequence of illegal and violent encounters” with people protesting against the election result.

“challenge to western democracy”

Ahmadinejad defended the legitimacy of the vote, telling a cabinet meeting on Wednesday that it had “posed a great challenge to the West’s democracy,” Mehr news agency reported. “The ideals of the Islamic Revolution were the winners of the election,” Ahmadinejad said, adding that 25 million of 42 million voters had approved the way he was running the country. The authorities reject charges that they rigged the vote, but scores of thousands of Iranians have braved riot police and religious militia to show their anger on the streets, ignoring Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s call for national unity.

The supreme leader is due to lead Friday prayers, when Ahmadinejad supporters are expected to show their strength. The protests represent a challenge to the authority of Khamenei, who has usually stood above the factional fray.

Iran has denounced foreign criticism of the election, even though U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration has muted its comments to keep the door open for possible dialogue. The Iranian Foreign Ministry on Wednesday summoned the Swiss ambassador, who represents U.S. interests, to protest at “interventionist” U.S. statements on the country’s election. The White House denied meddling, but said Obama would continue to defend the right of Iranians to protest peacefully.

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