Supporters of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his defeated challenger staged rival rallies on Tuesday as the nation grappled with its worst crisis since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
As the authorities imposed a clampdown on foreign media, the country’s election watchdog said it was ready to order a recount of the election that returned Ahmadinejad to power amid opposition claims of vote-rigging.
State television broadcast footage showing huge crowds of flag-waving demonstrators packing a central square in Tehran at a regime-organised rally, while a correspondent said a similar rally was also being held by supporters of defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi.
However, AFP could not reach the site of the demonstrations as Iran has banned journalists working for foreign media from covering such events.
A pro-Mousavi demonstration turned violent on Monday with seven people killed and several more wounded in street battles outside the local base of the Basij Islamic militia.
Iranian state television said the “main agents” in post-election unrest were arrested with explosives and guns. Iran’s English-language Press TV reported the arrests in a breaking news headline, but gave no details of how many people had been arrested or when.
Twitter break news dam
Some telephone, texting and Internet services have also been disrupted, and protesters have been turning to Twitter to spread word about the dramatic events taking place in Tehran and elsewhere in the country.
Messages posted on the micro-blogging service, some with links to pictures, streamed from Iran despite the ban on media.
‘Obama deeply troubled’
US President Barack Obama, who has called for dialogue with the Islamic republic after three decades of hostility, said he was “deeply troubled” by the unrest and would stick to tough diplomacy over Iran’s nuclear drive.
Monday’s violence flared after Mousavi, a former wartime premier who has pledged to improve ties with the outside world, appeared in public for the first time since the election.
“God willing, we will take back our rights,” Mousavi shouted from the roof of a car amid a sea of hundreds of thousand of Iranians packed into central Tehran.
Ahmadinejad in Russia
On Tuesday, Ahmadinejad himself was in Russia — a key ally which is helping Iran build a nuclear power plant — for a security summit. Moscow has described it as an “internal” affair.