TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Musavi has pledged to press ahead with efforts to reform the Islamic Republic despite a crackdown on protests after the June 12 presidential poll, his website says.
The election plunged Iran into its deepest internal crisis since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The opposition says more than 70 people were killed as Revolutionary Guards and Islamic militia put down the protests that erupted after the poll.
Officials say half that number were killed, and that included members of the security forces.
Musavi, who came second in the election, and other moderates say the June 12 vote was rigged to secure the re-election of hardline President Mahmud Ahmadinejad. Iranian authorities deny the accusation.
Rights groups say thousands were detained after the vote. More than 100 people, including former senior officials, still remain in jail. Three have so far been sentenced to death.
"Our people are not rioters. Reform will continue as long as people's demands are not met," Musavi's Kaleme website quoted him as saying.
"Keeping these people in jail is meaningless. They should be released as soon as possible," Musavi said in a meeting with relatives of detained former deputy Foreign Minister Mohsen Aminzadeh, Kaleme said.
The vote and unrest exposed deep divisions among the country's ruling elite.
Reformers believe the Islamic Republic must change in order to survive and meet the demands of its predominately youthful population.
Leading conservative lawmaker Ali Motahari blamed both Ahmadinejad and opposition leader Musavi for creating the rift in the country.
"Our friends should notice that Ahmadinejad had also a role in the recent discord," Motahari told conservative activists, the “Sarmayeh” newspaper reported.
"In order to protect and repair national unity, just as Mr. Musavi should confess his mistakes and apologize to the people, Mr. Ahmadinejad should do the same. Otherwise this discord would remain."
In a separate report in the “Vatan-e Emrouz” newspaper, a relative and ally of former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani suggested Musavi continued to enjoy the support of the influential cleric.
Rafsanjani, a rival of Ahmadinejad, in July challenged Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's authority by declaring the Islamic Republic in crisis and demanding an end to arrests of moderates following the presidential poll.
But Rafsanjani has subsequently appeared to back down, urging Iranians last month to follow Khamenei's guidelines and calling for national unity. Khamenei swiftly endorsed Ahmadinejad's election victory.
"As long as Mir Hossein Musavi is seeking the same important goal, he would enjoy Hashemi's support," Hossein Marashi, a close ally to Rafsanjani, was quoted as saying.