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Iranians defy ban, stage rally

world Updated: Jun 16, 2009 00:21 IST

Iranian opposition supporters staged a defiant rally on Monday against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election, with his defeated rival set to appear in public for the first time since the vote triggered the worst unrest in a decade.

Iranian state television said shots were fired during the rally and that people were seen running away. “There has been sporadic shooting out there ... I can see people running here,” a reporter of Iran’s English-language Press TV said in a live call from Tehran’s Azadi Square.

“A number of people who are armed, I don’t know exactly who they are, but they have started to fire on people causing havoc in Azadi Square,” he said.

Iran’s supreme leader has ordered the country’s top election supervisory body to look into the complaints raised by former premier Mir Hossein Mousavi, who has branded Friday’s election a vote-rigged “charade.”

“Mousavi, we support you! We will die but will retrieve our votes!” shouted the thousands who poured into central Tehran in defiance of an interior ministry ban.

Iran faces a growing diplomatic backlash over its crackdown on opposition protests as world powers questioned the validity of the election that gave Ahmadinejad another four years in power. Mousavi, a moderate who lost by a wide margin to Ahmadinejad, is planning to attend the march, his website said, setting the stage for possible confrontations with security forces.

“No authorisation for a march or gathering has been issued and any kind of gathering or march is illegal,” an interior ministry spokesman said.

State television said supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had told Mousavi to pursue his complaints against the most hotly-disputed election in the Islamic republic through legal and peaceful means, state television reported.

The moderate Mousavi lodged a formal appeal on Sunday for the cancellation of the results of an election that has sent rival protestors onto the streets, highlighting deep divisions in Iran after three decades of Islamic rule.