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Pro-Musavi Iranians Chant 'Death To The Dictator'

Iranian opposition leader, Mir Hossein Musavi (right) with former reformist President Mohammad Khatami

Iranian opposition leader, Mir Hossein Musavi (right) with former reformist President Mohammad Khatami

TEHRAN (Reuters) -- Hundreds of supporters of Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Musavi chanted "death to the dictator" in Tehran on August 6, a witness said, a day after Mahmud Ahmadinejad was sworn in as president.

The renewed protests come despite a heavy police presence and the mass trial of some 100 leading reformers accused of fomenting the unrest that has continued for eight weeks since disputed June 12 polls returned hardliner Ahmadinejad to office.

"Hundreds of people are in Vanak Square, chanting 'death to the dictator.' Others are also honking car horns," said the witness. "Hundreds of riot police are there as well."

The witness said riot police tried to disperse protesters.

"They are telling protesters to leave the area or face being arrested," the witness said.

The election and protests that followed, some of them the biggest antigovernment demonstrations the Islamic Republic has ever seen, have exposed deep divides among Iran's political and clerical elite.

Musavi and the other defeated pro-reform candidate Mehdi Karubi say the election was rigged and the next government will be illegitimate -- defying Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has formally endorsed Ahmadinejad.

Authorities say the vote was "the healthiest" election since Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Leading reformists, who support Musavi, boycotted Ahmadinejad's inauguration ceremony, defying Khamenei's call to preserve unity after the vote.

The Etemad-e Melli newspapers said on August 6 at least 55 moderate and several hardline lawmakers were also absent from the ceremony. Hundreds of pro-Musavi supporters gathered near parliament, where the ceremony was held.

Sealed Off

Ahmadinejad has been criticized by some hardliners angered by his initial choice of Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaie as his first vice-president. They were further upset when he took a week to obey Khamenei's order to dismiss Mashaie.

A few hours after Ahmadinejad took the oath of office, Karubi said moderates would continue their "fight" over the vote, criticizing the authorities for "suppressing street protests," his website Etemademelli reported.

U.S. President Barack Obama and the leaders of France, Britain, Italy, and Germany have all decided not to congratulate Ahmadinejad on his reelection.

Ahmadinejad reacted angrily, saying "no one in Iran is waiting for your messages."

Iran accuses the West, particularly the United States and Britain, of fomenting vote protests to weaken the clerical establishment. They deny the charge.

A senior police official said on August 6 that 26 people had been killed since the June 12 election. Since the vote, hundreds have been arrested, including dozens of prominent moderate lawyers, politicians, journalists, and campaigners.

Armed men raided and sealed the Tehran offices of the Association of Iranian Journalists late on August 5, said the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) which also called for Iran to free up to 42 reporters currently jailed.

A court opened the mass trial of more than 100 reformists on August 1 on charges of inciting the postelection unrests. Moderates called it a "show trial."

Ahmadinejad has two weeks to present a cabinet to parliament for approval but may get a rough ride from the conservatives who dominate the assembly, as well as from his moderate foes.
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