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MID: Iran opposition rejects partial recount

28 Jun 2009 5:22 PM

by Jay Deshmukh

TEHRAN, June 28 AFP - Iran's opposition leaders have rejected a panel set up to hold a partial recount in the disputed presidential vote as political deadlock continued to grip the Islamic republic.

Mir Hossein Mousavi, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's strongest rival in the June 12 race, is insisting on a new vote while another defeated candidate, Mehdi Karroubi, is demanding an independent panel to probe irregularities.

Their defiance flies in the face of the nation's top political arbitration body the Expediency Council, which has urged all candidates to cooperate with the panel set up by the electoral watchdog the Guardians Council.

But the streets of Tehran appeared quiet on Sunday, with the authorities warning they would suppress any further protests over the vote that triggered the worst unrest since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

The international community continues to voice alarm about the violent crackdown on the opposition in the election aftermath, but Iran has hit back, accusing Western nations, particularly the United States and Britain, of meddling.

Facing its biggest threat in 30 years, the Islamic regime has sought to quell the disquiet over the election results by ordering a partial recount.

The Guardians Council, an unelected body of 12 jurists and clerics, said Friday it would create a special committee of political figures and candidate representatives to recount 10 per cent of the ballots and draw up a report on the vote.

But Karroubi, a reformist former parliament speaker who came a distant fourth on June 12, said in a letter to the Guardians Council that a partial recount was "not enough".

He called for an independent panel to probe "all aspects of the election", in the letter published in his newspaper Etemad Melli.

Mousavi rejected the panel outright on Saturday, while the other defeated candidate, Mohsen Rezai, has agreed to be part of the panel if Mousavi and Karroubi also agree to nominate representatives to the body.

But Mousavi, who has spearheaded the massive public opposition to the vote, has demanded a re-run, refusing to be cowed by a persistent crackdown by the authorities against his supporters and even an aide turning against him.

"Limiting the probe into complaints about electoral irregularities to recounting 10 per cent of the ballot boxes cannot attract people's trust and convince public opinion about the results," he said on his campaign website.

"I insist again on cancelling the election (results) as the most suitable way out of the problem," he said.

Mousavi, who was prime minister in the post-revolution years, won just 34 per cent of the vote against 63 per cent for Ahmadinejad, a gap of 11 million votes, according to official results.

Despite ordering a partial recount, the Guardians Council said no "major irregularities" have so far been found and the election was the "cleanest we have had."

At least 17 people have been killed in clashes with security forces, according to state media. However, foreign media are banned from the streets under new restrictions imposed in the wake of the election.

The authorities have also rounded up scores of reformist leaders, journalists and political activists, many of them Mousavi supporters, while a party office has been raided and his newspaper closed down.

But the editor of a Mousavi campaign newspaper turned against him on Saturday, accusing him of "causing" the death of Iranians by bringing them out on to the streets.

Ahmadinejad himself unleashed a new tirade against US President Barack Obama on Saturday, saying: "He who spoke of reforms and changes, why did he interfere and comment in a way that disregards convention and courtesy?"

On Friday, Obama said Iran's "outrageous" crackdown on demonstrators would hit his hopes for direct talks with the Islamic republic after three decades of severed ties.

"There is no doubt that any direct dialogue or diplomacy with Iran is going to be affected by the events of the last several weeks," Obama said.

However, Obama said talks between Iran and the five veto-wielding permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany over its nuclear drive are likely to continue.

The United States and other Western countries suspect Iran of using its nuclear program as cover for efforts to build an atomic weapon, charges repeatedly denied by Tehran.

On Friday, foreign ministers of the Group of Eight (G8) leading powers also voiced concerned about the election aftermath in Iran, the regional Shi'ite powerhouse and OPEC's second largest oil exporter.

"We fully respect the sovereignty of Iran. At the same time we deplore post-election violence which led to the loss of lives of Iranian civilians and urge Iran to respect fundamental human rights.

But Iran hit back at what it said was the G8's "interfering and hasty position."