TEHRAN, Iran — Hundreds of thousands of Iranians flooded Tehran on Wednesday in a fifth day of unauthorized protests demanding the annulment of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election.
The Association of Human Rights Activists in Iran, a leading human rights group, reported that 32 people have been killed in the protests so far. The government struck back by expelling foreign reporters, prohibiting coverage of demonstrations and threatening legal action against Iranians who sent videos, news reports and photographs abroad.
The Foreign Ministry summoned the Swiss ambassador to Iran — who represents the interests of the United States, which has no diplomatic relations with Tehran — to protest "interventionist" statements by U.S. officials, according to state-run Iranian news agencies.
On Tuesday, President Barack Obama said it was "not productive" for the United States "to be seen as meddling" in the Iranian election, but some Republicans have called for a stronger American reaction.
In Washington, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley denied Iran's allegations. "As the president has said, we are not interfering in the debate that Iranians are having about their election and its aftermath," Crowley said. "This is not about the United States."
State-run Press TV quoted Iranian Foreign Minister Hassan Qashqavi as accusing foreign news media of fanning post-election unrest with politically motivated coverage.
The drama could heighten further. In a direct challenge to the government, defeated candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi called on his Web site for another massive march today.
Mousavi urged his supporters to wear black to mourn the election results and the deaths of the protesters, among them eight who were shot dead Monday by members of the Basij, a hard-line volunteer militia.
As nations around the world urged Iran's leadership to exercise restraint, Mousavi and one of Iran's chief reformers, former President Mohammad Khatami, issued a letter urging an end to violence and arrests.
"We ask you to take all the necessary measures to put an end to today's worrying situation, to stop the violent actions against people and to free those arrested," they wrote in a letter on Mousavi's Web site.