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Iran's Musavi Hints At New Opposition Rally

Opposition leader Musavi claims the June election was rigged
TEHRAN (Reuters) -- Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Musavi appeared to urge his supporters on October 31 to take part in rallies on November 4 marking the 30th anniversary of the student seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran.

If they gather in the streets on November 4, there may be clashes with police and government backers, as happened at annual demonstrations in Iran in support of the Palestinians on September 18.

In a statement posted on his website, Musavi said he would press ahead with his efforts for political change in Iran following its disputed election in June, which he says was rigged in favour of hardline President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.

Apart from sporadic incidents, the streets of Tehran have returned to normal since the poll sparked Iran's worst street unrest since the Islamic revolution three decades ago.

Referring to the Iranian date of the takeover of the U.S. embassy in 1979, Musavi said: "The 13th of Aban is a ... rendezvous so we would remember anew that among us it is the people who are the leaders."

He said: "Our 'green path' is a rational one and a bearer of good news since it shows that we will stand firm on our demands." Green was the color of Musavi's election campaign.

"Sooner or later ... the people's opponents will be leaving the scene. But does it mean a devastated country will have to remain for the nation on that day?" he added.

Anti-Western rallies usually take place outside the old U.S. embassy to mark the day in 1979 when radical students scaled its walls and took 52 Americans hostage, holding them for 444 days. Washington cut diplomatic ties with Tehran in 1980.

Some reformist websites have called on people to gather outside the Russian embassy instead, in an apparent protest at Moscow's swift recognition of Ahmadinejad's election victory.

Iranian security officials have ordered the opposition not to hold demonstrations on that day.

'People's Opponents'

The elite Revolutionary Guards and an allied Islamic militia quelled the huge opposition protests that erupted in the days after the June 12 vote and thousands of people were arrested.

Most of the detainees have since been released, but more than 100 senior reformers, activists, journalists, and others have been put on trial, accused of fomenting street unrest. The opposition has denounced the court sessions as "show trials."

Several of the accused have received jail sentences and three have been sentenced to death, according to Iranian media. Under Iranian law, the verdicts can be appealed.

The authorities have portrayed the postelection street demonstrations as a foreign-backed bid to undermine the Islamic Republic. They reject charges of vote rigging, describing the election as the country's "healthiest" for three decades.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's top authority, said earlier this week that it was a crime to question the election and stressed the big voter turnout, and hardliners have called for Musavi to be prosecuted.

Ahmadinejad has consolidated his position in recent months, winning parliament's backing for his government as well as for an economic reform plan. But Musavi and his allies have continued to voice defiance.

Reformist former President Mohammad Khatami, who backed Musavi in the election, also made clear he would not back down.

"It should be recognised that a crisis has emerged out in society and only after that one can think of a solution," he said on his website.

"We will go on...critiquing the existing power but, of course, within the framework of a movement that accepts Islam, the Islamic establishment and the revolution," he added.

The opposition says more than 70 people were killed in the postelection violence. Officials say the death toll was half that and members of the security forces were among the victims.