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Fear empties the normally bustling streets of Tehran

An election victory by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been proclaimed official by authorities, who brush aside calls for a new vote.

Associated Press

An election victory by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been proclaimed official by authorities, who brush aside calls for a new vote.

TEHRAN, Iran — President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad added new fuel to an intensifying spat with President Barack Obama Saturday, denouncing what he called "insulting" comments about a crackdown on protesters.

In televised remarks to judiciary officials, Ahmadinejad struck back at Obama a day after the U.S. president praised protesters for showing "bravery in the face of brutality" and described violence against them as "outrageous." Obama also dismissed Ahmadinejad's demand for an apology for previous criticism and suggested that the Iranian leader apologize to the families of those who have been arrested, beaten or killed in the crackdown.

Ahmadinejad said Western leaders who made "insulting and irrelevant comments will be put on a fair trial" by Iran at international gatherings.

Ahmadinejad also vowed to take a tougher approach toward alleged meddling by the West during his second four-year term, which the government has said will begin this summer.

Iran's Interior Ministry has proclaimed Ahmadinejad the winner of the June 12 election with nearly 63 percent of the vote, followed by Mir Hossein Mousavi with less than 34 percent. Mousavi, 67, who was prime minister for eight years in the 1980s, has charged that fraud "reversed" the results, and supporters have staged a series of street protests to back his demand for a new election. Iranian authorities, including the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have ruled out a new vote and declared the demonstrations illegal. Security forces have been deployed to break up protests with clubs, tear gas, arrests and, on at least two occasions, gunfire.

State-run media say at least 17 people have been killed and 100 injured in postelection violence.

In the latest attempt to resolve the electoral dispute, the Guardian Council, a supervisory body that oversees elections, created a "special committee" to review the results and invited participation by Mousavi and another opposition candidate, Mehdi Karroubi.

Mousavi and Karroubi both rejected the offer Saturday, saying that the committee would not be independent and that the scope of the review would not be broad enough.

TEHRAN, Iran — An eerie quiet has settled over this normally frenetic city, where, in more settled times, traffic and a lack of decent parking were daily topics of conversation.

On Saturday, few cars were on the streets and highways, and commutes that could normally take 45 minutes took just 15. Although shops were open throughout the city, they were mainly empty. Even Tehran's beauty salons, normally hives of activity on the weekends, had few customers. At one shop, the bored workers fussed over one another's hair.

Although the signs of government repression on Saturday were less visible, people who did come out into Tehran's streets said they were dispirited by the upheaval that has shaken this country over the past two weeks and were taking something of a wait-and-see attitude. While some ventured out to do necessary chores, many were avoiding trips around the city for fear of further crackdowns by the government.

A woman at an Islamic coat shop on Hafteh Tir Square said she was depressed because of what she had seen on the streets.

"I am disgusted and wish I could leave this country," said the woman, who gave only her first name, Mahtab, for fear of retribution. She said she saw a paramilitary officer outside the shop hit a middle-aged woman in the head so hard that blood started streaming down her forehead.

"They do this under the name of religion. Which religion allows this?" she asked.

Fear empties the normally bustling streets of Tehran 06/27/09 [Last modified: Saturday, June 27, 2009 11:06pm]
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