Iran uses force to quell protests

Police crush hundreds after oppn leader Mousavi calls for more demonstrations


A picture combo shows a screen grab posted on YouTube (left) of Neda Agha Soltani who was reportedly killed when hit by a bullet during a protest in Tehran, along with undated pictures of her posted on the Net on Monday.AFP

Witnesses said helicopters hovered overhead as about 200 protesters gathered at Haft-e-Tir Square. But hundreds of anti-riot police quickly put an end to the demonstration and prevented any gathering, even small groups, at the scene.

At the subway station at Haft-e-Tir, the witnesses said police did not allow anyone to stand still, asking them to keep on walking and separating people who were walked together. The witnesses asked not to be identified for fear of government reprisals.

Just before the clashes, an Iranian woman who lives in Tehran said there was a heavy police presence in another square in central Tehran.

“There is a massive, massive, massive police presence,” she told the Associated Press in Cairo by telephone. “Their presence was really intimidating,” she added.

Iran says at least 17 protesters have been killed in a week of unrest so far after the electoral council declared hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad winner of the June 12 election. His main challenger, Mir Hossein Mousavi, charged the election was a fraud and insists he is the true winner.

Voting irregularities

The country’s highest electoral authority, the Guardian Council, acknowledged on Monday that there were voting irregularities in 50 electoral districts, the most serious official admission so far of problems in the election. But the council insisted the problems do not affect the outcome of the vote.

Mousavi’s call

Mousavi vowed on Sunday night to keep up the protests, in defiance of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who holds ultimate power in Iran. In a sermon to tens of thousands on Friday, Khamenei said demonstrators must stop their street protests or face the consequences and he firmly backed Ahmadinejad’s victory.

“The country belongs to you,” Mousavi’s latest statement said. “Protesting lies and fraud is your right.”

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