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Hundreds of thousands of Iranian protesters hard to ignore as they fight election results

TEHRAN, Iran — Hundreds of thousands of protesters dressed in black and green flooded the streets of Tehran on Thursday in a show of defiance and mourning for those killed in clashes after Iran's disputed presidential election.

The massive march — the fourth this week — sent a message that opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi has the popular backing to sustain his unprecedented challenge to Iran's ruling clerics.

Even President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, named the landslide winner in the June 12 election, appeared to take the growing opposition more seriously and backtracked on his dismissal of the protesters as "dust" and sore losers.

Iran's Guardian Council on Thursday invited the four presidential candidates to a special meeting Saturday to review their concerns. The council confirms election results. It is investigating allegations of fraud and has agreed to a limited recount in places where irregularities are found.

Abbas Ali Kadkhodai, a spokesman for the council, said it has received 646 complaints from Mousavi and two other opposition candidates.

For the fifth straight night, Ahmadinejad opponents went to their rooftops in Tehran and cried out "Allahu akbar!" — "God is great!" The rooftop shouting is a deeply symbolic tactic that Mousavi borrowed from the Islamic Revolution and the idea that people power can challenge any system.

Key players in Iran's election:

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei: Wields control over every major decision directly or through network of loyalists and institutions, including the powerful Revolutionary Guards, the judiciary and intelligence services. Khamenei, 70, succeeded the father of Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, after his death in 1989.

Guardian Council: Twelve experts in Islamic law who approve candidates for high elected office, certify results and can veto parliamentary bills. The supreme leader picks six council members and has veto-power over six other members selected by Parliament.

Assembly of Experts: Clerics, elected by the public, who oversee supreme leader's performance. They select successor after his death.

Revolutionary Guards: Military corps of more than 200,000 that is independent of regular armed forces and controlled by the supreme leader. They oversee oil and natural gas installations and the nation's missile arsenal.

Basij: Volunteer militia directed by the Revolutionary Guards. Often used in crackdowns of dissidents.

Hundreds of thousands of Iranian protesters hard to ignore as they fight election results 06/18/09 [Last modified: Thursday, June 18, 2009 11:17pm]
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