Iran's reformist presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi has called off a major rally to protest last Friday's election results, amid claims police had been cleared to open fire on protesters.
By Colin Freeman
Published: 11:21AM BST 15 Jun 2009
Supporters had been due to turn out en masse in Tehran on Monday afternoon, despite government warnings to stay off the streets.
But this morning, a statement on Mr Mousavi's campaign website announced that the demonstration had been postponed – although it said Mr Mousavi would go to the site to ensure any supporters who showed up remained calm.
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Mr Mousavi's wife and co-campaigner, Zahra Ranavard, was reported as warning that riot squads would be equipped with live ammunition, raising the prospect of serious bloodshed.
Iran's Interior Ministry said Mr Mousavi would be responsible for any consequences if he went ahead with the protest.
Mr Mousavi's cancellation of the protest came as sporadic disturbances continued around the Iranian capital, and reports circulated of leaked interior ministry statistics showing him as the clear victor in last Friday's polls.
The statistics, circulated on Iranian blogs and websites, claimed Mr Mousavi had won 19.1 million votes while Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had won only 5.7 million.
The two other candidates, reformist Mehdi Karoubi and hardliner Mohsen Rezai, won 13.4 million and 3.7 million respectively. The authenticity of the leaked figures could not be confirmed.
Mr Mousavi has accused Iran's government of "fraud" after Mr Ahmadinejad was declared on Saturday to have 62.6 per cent of the vote, making him the landslide winner. The capital has been rocked by disturbances for the last three days.
It was not clear whether Mr Mousavi's supporters would heed his call to stay indoors. About 200 relatives of people arrested during protests over the weekend staged a brief protest outside Tehran's main revolutionary court.
"You can beat us as much as you can, but take us to our children," shouted one woman, as a policeman was seen beating a man in a bid to disperse the crowd. Around 170 people are believed to have been detained so far, and are thought to have been taken to Tehran's Evin prison.
In an effort to quell the rising tensions, the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has ordered an investigation into claims of fraud in Friday's disputed vote, according to Iranian state television.
Meanwhile, David Miliband, the British Foreign Secretary, raised concern over the implications of the disputed elections for Iran's engagement with the West and for efforts to curb its controversial nuclear programme.
"Our serious concern is about the implications of recent events for the engagement the international community seeks with the government of Iran," Miliband told reporters as he arrived for a meeting with European Union counterparts in Luxembourg today.
"The implications are not yet clear."
Mr Mousavi had previously threatened to hold a sit-in protest at the mausoleum of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, if the authorities banned his followers from holding their rally. It is thought the government would be reluctant to forcibly break a demonstration in what is considered a holy place.
A reformist activist close to Mr Mousavi, Shahab Tabatabaei, said his supporters were determined to hold rally despite the interior ministry's rejection.
Overnight, squads of police and their allies in Iran's basiji gangs, a plain clothes militia made up of civilian hardliners, stormed the campus at the city's biggest university, ransacking dormitories and arresting dozens of students.
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