Ayatollahs call for compromise — Grand Ayatollah Nasser Makarem-Shirazi has called for the election crisis to be settled through “national conciliation”. Quoted on the official PressTV site, he backed Khamenei’s call for an end to the unrest and the resolution of problems “by lawful means”. But he added that the solution to the conflict should not be superficial. “Definitively, something must be done to ensure that there are no embers burning under the ashes, and (to ensure) that hostilities, antagonism and rivalries are transformed into amity and cooperation among all parties.” He urged restraint on all sides. Although not openly siding with the opposition, the statement by the highly influential ayatollah can be interpreted as a rebuke of Khamenei’s implacable stance and a sign of how deep the divisions go among the clergy. Earlier the dissident Grand Ayatollah Montazeri warned that suppressing the opposition posed a serious danger to the Islamic republic itself. In a statement faxed to AFP he said: “If Iranians cannot talk about their legitimate rights at peaceful gatherings and are instead suppressed, frustrations will build up which could possibly uproot the foundations of the government, no matter how powerful.” While also urging calm, he called for an “impartial” committee with full powers to find a solution to the worst crisis in the 30-year history of the Islamic republic.
Doctor who treated Neda speaks — The BBC has an interview that would seem finally to lay to rest any doubts that Neda Agha-Soltan’s death was some kind of set-up or was manipulated by the opposition (or even a ‘mistake’ as the authorities tried to claim). In it Dr Arash Hejazi reveals himself as the doctor who tried to help Neda after she was shot. Despite his attempts to stop the bleeding she died in less than a minute, he said. Although other people seized an armed Basij volunteer, who appeared to admit shooting Neda, they let him go because they were unsure what to do with him. The BBC said Dr Hejazi is studying “at a university in the south of England” and believes he now cannot return to Iran. He said it was a hard decision to leave Iran to talk about the incident, but “she was fighting for basic rights… I don’t want her blood to have been shed in vain.” Meanwhile reports from Iran say security forces are preventing people from visiting Neda’s grave.
Moussavi refuses to buckle —The state media reported “constructive talks” at a meeting Wednesday between the governing board of parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy committee and Ayatollah Rafsanjani and Moussavi. PressTV quoted committee head Alaedin Borujerdi, as saying the committee had appealed to Rafsanjani to help end the disorder “and he vowed support. We hope we will witness practical measures to end the current situation soon.” He added: “The governing board … explained their expectations of Mr Moussavi and he expressed his interest in helping to resolve the issues.” Boroujerdi said there would be further talks with Moussavi.
Quite what this amounts to remains to be seen, because Moussavi was back vowing defiance Thursday, declaring his determination to continue the fight and insisting the protesters had a constitutional right to express their anger over the election. In what was possibly a reference to Wednesday’s meeting, he acknowledged that he was coming under pressure to recant, according to Reuters. But he added: “A major rigging has happened … I am prepared to prove that those behind the rigging are responsible for the bloodshed … The continuation of legal and calm protests will guarantee achieving our goals. I insist on the nation’s constitutional right to protest against the election result and its aftermath.” He also protested against the closure of Kalameh, his daily newspaper, and the arrest of its staff.
On the Guardian’s Iran blog, Robert Tait reported that Moussavi directly criticised Khamenei in a later meeting with Iranian socioligists. “The Supreme Leader’s … identification with the president is not for the benefit of the country.”
What is interesting is that Moussavi’s views are receiving publicity in the state media. PressTV quotes his Facebook statement, leading on his accusation that the government has been distorting “the facts about the state of affairs in the country”. The report quoted Moussavi as saying: “I will not withdraw from demanding the rights of the Iranian people to protect my own interests and for fear of their threats. I am ready to prove how those responsible for electoral fraud took side with the main elements of the recent violence and unrest and spilled the blood of the people. The fact that they are trying to ignore is that a massive fraud took place in this election and afterwards those who opposed the situation were brutally detained, attacked, injured and killed.”
Also worthy of note is the latest statement from Mehdi Karroubi, who says his beef is not with the Guardian Council, despite widespread accusations of its partiality to Ahmadinejad, but with the Interior Ministry, which he blamed for the recent tensions in the country. While he pledged to continue working “within the framework of the Islamic establishment”, he said “our right has been violated and we will legally pursue the matter.” He also suggested the country allow two simultaneous gatherings, one for Ahmadinejad supporters, the other for supporters of the defeated candidates, “to see which gathering would draw more people”. He added: “The sweetness of the nation’s massive turnout in the elections was turned bitter and this has enraged the people, resulting in the self-initiated rallies in protest at the electoral process and its outcome. People were not chanting slogans against the establishment, they shouted Allah-o Akbar wanting their right to be asserted and to know what happened to their vote.”
Obama rebuffed –Ahmadinejad today likened Presidenbt Obama to his predecessor Georgge W Bush and said talks between the two countries would be pointless. He said Obama’s statements Wednesday about the regime’s reaction to the post-election unrest represented unacceptable meddling in Iran’s affairs. “Mr Obama made a mistake saying those things. I wonder why Mr Obama, who has come with the slogan of change, fell into this trap and said things that previously Bush used to say . . . If that is your stance then what is there left to talk about?” Ahmadinejad said the American president had made the mistake of following in the footsteps of Britain and other European nations, who he described as a “bunch of politically retarded people”.
Iran widened its row with Europe today by accusing France of interfering in the its internal affairs by “encouraging unrest” after the elections. PressTV quoted a statement from Iran’s embassy in Paris: “Iran’s ambassador to Paris has advised French officials to dedicate their time and efforts to managing their country’s economic and political problems instead of interfering in matters that do not concern them.” The statement added that the ambassador had urged Paris not to follow in the footsteps of “certain interfering and notorious state”, taken to be a reference to Britain.
PressTV said Iran had summoned ambassadors from Britain, France, Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Canada to warn them against meddling in Iran’s internal affairs. It has also censured the European Union’s “biased and partial attitude” toward the unrest. Iran’s envoy to Brussels, Ali-Asghar Khaji, met the head of the European parliament, Hans-Gert Poettering, to urge the EU not to interfere in Iran after the EU decided to send a delegation of MEPs to Tehran to investigate the election .
Iran is also high on the agenda of a three-day G8 meeting in Trieste. Italy’s foreign minister Franco Frattini said the G8 countries would adopt a tough stance against Iran, according to Deutsche Welle. Its report said reaction to Iran’s post-election violence had taken over the agenda of talks intended to prepare the ground for the G8 summit next month. Frattini said Iran was “at a turning point. It must choose whether or not to keep the door open to dialogue with the international community. The hand extended by the United States, which we have supported, cannot come back with blood on it. We will adopt a particularly tough and clear position.”
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier also said he expected the G8 foreign ministers to take a common line on the violence in Iran. However one dissenting voice was that of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who said isolating Iran would be the “wrong approach” for the G8.
You have to laugh — The Iranian crisis has its funnier side, partly as the result of the opposition using humour as another weapon to demean Ahmadinejad and his supporters. Three videos have caught my eye over the last few days: Super Basiji which, although in Persian, is visually explanatory, a spoof BBC Persian clip ‘Ahmadinejad breaks his silence’, and a genuine clip of the President preparing for a TV interview when he suddenly … well, witness for yourself what he does.
Media crackdown — Alireza Beheshti, editor in chief of Mousavi’s newspaper Kalameh and the son of the assassinated Ayatollah Beheshti, has been freed, according to reliable tweets. He and his staff were arrested earlier this week in a raid on the newspaper.
Party snub — More than half of Iran’s MPs failed to turn up to a party Ahmadinejad held to celebrate his election victory, according to the BBC. Quoting local reports, it said only 105 of the Iranian parliament’s 290 MPs – all of whom were invited – came to shake the President’s hand. Prominent among the stay-aways as the parliament speaker Ali Larijani, who has been highly criticial of the state’s response to the protests.
University probe — A fact-finding commission has been formed to investigate the attacks on a number of Iranian universities that occurred shortly after protests against the election results began, causing considerable damage and wounding many students. Mohammad Mehdi Zahedi, the Minister of Science, Research and Tcehnology, said those responsible would be punished.
Basij deaths — The death toll from the recent disturbances includes eight members of the basij, according to PressTV. It said all were killed by gunfire.
Ban? What ban? — The Iranian football federation has now denied permanently banning the players who wore green wristbands at the World Cup qualifier in Seoul. “The comments in foreign media are nothing but lies and a mischievous act,” federation head Ali Kafashin was quoted as saying. “The federation has not banned any player from the national team.”