Opposition leader Mehdi Karrubi has recognized Mahmud Ahmadinejad as Iran's head of government, even though he still maintains that June's presidential vote was rigged to ensure Ahmadinejad's reelection.
Karrubi's stand could signal a move toward reconciliation in Iran and an attempt to ease postelection tensions that have plunged the Islamic Republic into crisis.
Karrubi, who stood against Ahmadinejad in the disputed June vote, was asked by the semiofficial Fars news agency whether he recognized "the lawful and elected president of the Iranian people."
He was quoted by Fars as responding, "I still maintain that there were problems, but with regard to your question, I should say that I recognize the president."
Karrubi's son, Hossein, told RFE/RL's Radio Farda his father still believed last year's election had been marred by fraud.
But he said Ahmadinejad had the endorsement of Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
"He's said, 'I still believe that the election was full of doubts and massively rigged but because the government has been confirmed by the supreme leader -- because of that I recognize [Ahmadinejad] as the head of the government, only because of the endorsement of the supreme leader,'" Hossein Karrubi said.
He said his father's comments could help calm the tense postelection atmosphere in Iran and pave the way for parliament to effectively counter the government.
Karrubi's comment represents the first time since the June vote that a major opposition figure has publicly and explicitly acknowledged Ahmadinejad's victory.
Despite the quick endorsement of Ahmadinejad and his reelection by Supreme Leader Khamenei, Karrubi and the main opposition leader, Mir Hossein Musavi, had led the opposition movement against him and described his victory as illegitimate.
Some Iranians on Facebook and other social-networking websites expressed regret over Karrubi's move, with some going so far as to call him "a traitor."
Yet a member of the opposition Green Movement who did not want to be named because of security fears told RFE/RL that Karrubi's comments did not represent a shift in his previous stance.
"He didn't say he recognizes Ahmadinejad as the elected president, he said he recognizes him as the head of the government. There is a government in the country and its head is Ahmadinejad," the opposition source said in a telephone interview from the Iranian capital.
Said Razavi Fagheen, a Tehran-based journalist who campaigned for Karrubi ahead of the June vote, also said he did not think Karrubi was backtracking.
"I think [Karrubi and other opposition leaders] are looking for wise and intelligent solutions to solve the country's problems," Fagheen said. "Our country is currently facing domestic, regional, and international problems, and these issues can threaten our national interests, security and national unity."
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An Iranian political analyst, Mohammad Saleh Sedghian, said that Karrubi's latest stance hinted at efforts at reconciliation between hard-liners and reformists.
"We find that they [opposition groups] are leaning toward recognizing the Ahmadinejad government, but they keep objecting to the mechanism in which the election was held," Sedghian was quoted as saying by AFP.
In his latest statement issued last month, Musavi avoided calling for the resignation of Ahmadinejad, leading to speculation that he might be retreating.
Today an Iranian news website, "Khabaronline," published parts of a letter said to be by opposition figure and former President Mohammad Khatami addressed to Supreme Leader Khamenei in which Khatami reportedly says reformists recognize the Iranian government.
"We recognize the current government, but extremism should be stopped," the letter says. "There is extremism on this and that side."
The news comes ahead of next month's anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, which is expected to draw fresh antigovernment protests.
Some bloggers have suggested that the report is an attempt by hard-liners to create a rift within the opposition camp ahead of the anniversary of the 1979 revolution.
Radio Farda broadcasters Roya Karimi and Roozbeh Bolhari contributed to this report