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Iran arrests foreign nationals in connection with protests

# Story Highlights
# NEW: Britain: "We have seen reports of the arrest of British nationals"
# NEW: Iran says it's temporarily recalling its ambassador from London
# Iran has long blamed foreign countries, especially Britain, for "meddling"
# One opposition candidate withdraws complaint about voting irregularities

TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) -- Iranian authorities said Wednesday they have arrested several foreign nationals, some with British passports, in connection with the country's post-election unrest.
Iranian police stand guard Tuesday outside the British Embassy in Tehran during a protest.

Iranian police stand guard Tuesday outside the British Embassy in Tehran during a protest.
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Intelligence Minister Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ezhei told reporters that some with links to the West and Israel had planned bombings ahead of the June 12 presidential election, the government-funded Press TV reported Wednesday.

"England is among the countries that fan the flames with their heavy propaganda, which is against all diplomatic norms," the intelligence minister was quoted in the semi-official Fars news agency. "And the BBC Farsi has also played a major role. Also, a number of people carrying British passports have played a role in the recent disturbances."

The British foreign office said it was looking into the allegations.

"We have seen reports of the arrest of British nationals in Iran," the foreign office said. "Consular colleagues and the embassy in Tehran are making enquiries."

The Iranian government has long blamed foreign countries, especially Britain, for meddling in its affairs but has not offered up proof.

Tehran said Wednesday it temporarily was recalling its ambassador from London, another move in escalating tit-for-tat gestures between the two governments.
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On Tuesday, Britain expelled two Iranian diplomats. A day earlier, Iran asked two British diplomats to leave.

Press TV said Wednesday that police have identified a building in central Tehran that was being used as a "headquarters" to foment post-election unrest.

The television station, citing unnamed sources, said the building was used by campaign staffers of opposition leader Mir Hossein Moussavi. Evidence indicated that "foreign elements" were behind the planning, Press TV said.

While the government stepped up its allegations against foreign nations, Tehran residents waited Wednesday to see whether a planned massive peaceful demonstration panned out.

Demonstrators who have taken to the streets in the capital city and elsewhere were expected to gather at a square near the parliament building Wednesday afternoon, according to hints posted on social networking sites.

People in Tehran and elsewhere said they were too afraid to talk about the political crisis over the phone.

Residents said the Internet was the best way to transmit information about the unrest. However, the spotty connection made it difficult to rely on the Web.

"It's beyond fear," said a woman arriving at a U.S. airport from Iran who still did not want her name used for fear for her safety. "The situation is more like terror." Video Watch a woman coming to the U.S. describe the crackdown »

The difficulty in accessing information has been compounded by a government clampdown on foreign media.

International journalists have been banned from covering the protests, prompting media outlets to rely on citizens who are using social networking Web sites to send out videos and photos depicting scenes of chaos.

According to Reporters Without Borders, 36 journalists have been arrested, 26 of them Iranian, since the June 12 presidential election while "many others" are missing.

Opposition candidate Mehdi Karrubi strongly scolded Iranian media Tuesday for blaming the recent violence on the demonstrators who took to the streets, claiming the election's outcome was manipulated.

The "assaults, beatings and murder of innocent people" were committed by plain-clothed security forces, not by demonstrators as the Iranian media would like its audiences to believe, Karrubi said in an open letter addressed to the head of state-run radio and television.

The letter was posted on Karrubi's Web site Tuesday. CNN could not confirm the authenticity of the statement because of the restrictions on international journalists inside Iran.

All of Iran's media outlets are controlled by the government.

Karrubi and Moussavi have questioned the legitimacy of the vote count and called for the cancellation of the election.

On Tuesday, Iran said it was extending the deadline to register ballot fraud complaints to Sunday.

But another candidate, Mohsen Rezaie, withdrew his complaint about voting irregularities and demand for a recount of the ballots. CNN could not determine the authenticity of the posting.

In a letter to the Guardian Council posted on Rezaie's Web site Tuesday, the presidential candidate said he had intended to follow up his accusations. But controlling the political situation inside the country was more important than election results, he said.

Officials declared incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the winner of the presidential election by a 2-1 margin over Moussavi to the surprise of many observers who had expected the challenger to win.

Moussavi accused the government of vote-rigging and demonstrators have been protesting the results for more than a week.

Iranian state-run media reported Tuesday that Ahmadinejad will be sworn in to a second term between July 26 and August 19.

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Added: Jun-24-2009 Occurred On: Jun-24-2009
By: bellava
Iran, News, Middle East
Tags: , , Iran, arrests, foreign, nationals, in, connection, with, protests,
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