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Page last updated at 09:42 GMT, Wednesday, 24 June 2009 10:42 UK

Protests in Iran capital 'halted'

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Iran video shows street violence

Iranian riot police and militiamen appear to have put a halt to protests in the capital, after days of clashes over a disputed presidential election.

Residents say the city is quiet, though opposition supporters have called for a day of mourning for those killed during the protests.

One of the three defeated candidates, Mohsen Rezai, a conservative, has now withdrawn his complaint about the poll.

Barack Obama has condemned the "unjust" violence used against protesters.

The Iranian authorities have accused Britain and the US of trying to destabilise the country, something they have denied.

IRAN UNREST

12 June Presidential election saw incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad re-elected with 63% of vote
Main challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi called for result to be annulled on grounds of electoral fraud
Street protests saw at least 17 people killed and foreign media restricted

Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Iran was "reviewing" whether to downgrade relations with the UK, the semi-official news agency Isna reported.

The UK moved to expel two Iranian diplomats in response to Tehran's decision to order two UK diplomats to leave Iran following allegations UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown called "absolutely without foundation".

Meanwhile, reports say four Iranian footballers who appeared to show solidarity with the protesters have been punished with bans.

The pro-government Iran Daily newspaper said four of the six players who wore green wristbands during a World Cup qualifier against South Korea in Seoul had been retired from the national team.

Street clashes

In the 12 days since the 12 June election, which saw incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad returned with 63% of the vote, opposition supporters have repeatedly clashed with police on the streets of Tehran.

Mohsen Rezai, a former leader of the Revolutionary Guards, said he had withdrawn his complaints about the vote in the interests of Iran's national security.

"I see it as my responsibility to encourage myself and others to control the current situation," Mr Rezai was quoted as saying in a letter to the Guardian Council.

He had previously claimed to have won more votes than the official tally, which placed him third in the poll.

"No iron fist is strong enough to shut out the world from bearing witness"

Amid ongoing restrictions on media, Western media outlets reported that 25 journalists and other staff at a newspaper owned by Mir Hossein Mousavi, the main challenger to President Ahmadinejad, had been arrested.

AFP quoted one of the Kalemeh Sabz's editors saying that five women staff members had been released. The paper, launched in the run-up to the election, has already been shut down by authorities.

On Tuesday, President Obama used his starkest language yet to strongly condemn Iran's clamping down on election protests.

He said he respected Iran's sovereignty and it was "patently false" of Iran to say the West was fomenting the unrest.

Earlier on Tuesday, the opposition was told by Iran's Guardian Council, the legislative body for elections, that the presidential election result would not be annulled.

Guardian Council spokesman Abbas Ali Kadkhoda'i said there had been "no major fraud or breach in the election".

But Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei later agreed to extend by five days the amount of time allowed to examine complaints of electoral fraud.

The remaining two candidates have called for the elections to be re-run, amid claims of vote tampering.

Iranian hardline students burnt the US and British flags outside  the British embassy in Tehran
Flags were burnt outside the British embassy in Iran

Opposition candidate Mehdi Karroubi has urged Iranians to mourn for dead protesters on Thursday.

His call echoed an earlier one from cleric Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri for three days of national mourning for those killed in the street protests.

On Friday, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei banned protests, prompting street violence in which at least 10 people died.

Severe reporting restrictions placed on the BBC and other foreign media in Iran mean protest reports cannot be verified independently as correspondents are unable to move around the city freely or cover unauthorised gatherings.


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