Page last updated at 04:53 GMT, Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Obama condemns Iran's 'iron fist'

President Barack Obama condemns the crackdown

US President Barack Obama has condemned the Iranian government's attempts to quell recent protests, in which eight people have been killed.

He said the "iron fist of brutality" had been used to silence protesters, calling the actions of officials an "unjust suppression".

Barack Obama also urged the government to release detained opposition figures.

Sunday's protests were the most violent for months. The opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi's nephew was killed.

Officials deny opposition claims that police shot Seyed Ali Mousavi or were responsible for the deaths of other protesters killed on Sunday.

'Unjustly detained'

Speaking from Hawaii, Mr Obama said: "The United States joins with the international community in strongly condemning the violent and unjust suppression of innocent Iranian citizens.

"The United States stands with those who seek their universal rights," he said, adding that his government wanted to see all those "unjustly detained" freed immediately.

19 Dec: Influential dissident cleric Grand Ayatollah Hoseyn Ali Montazeri dies aged 87
21 Dec: Tens of thousands attend his funeral in Qom; reports of clashes between opposition supporters and security forces
22 Dec: Further confrontations reported in Qom
23 Dec: More clashes reported in city of Isfahan as memorial is held
24 Dec: Iran reportedly bans further memorial services for Montazeri except in his birthplace and Qom
26 Dec: Clashes reported in central and northern Tehran
27 Dec: At least eight dead following anti-government protests in Tehran; 300 reported arrested

Those detained on Monday include senior aides to Mr Mousavi, and a former foreign minister.

State media said forensic tests were being carried out on the body of Mr Mousavi's nephew and others killed on Sunday, preventing the rapid burials that are usual under Islamic tradition.

The bodies had been "retained in order to complete forensic and police examinations and find more leads on this suspicious incident", the Irna news agency reported.

Members of the Mousavi family earlier said Seyed Ali's body had been taken without their permission from the hospital where it was being held.

Opposition sources said the body had been taken by government agents in order to prevent his funeral becoming a rallying point for more protests.

According to Mr Mousavi's website, Seyed Ali Mousavi was shot in the back on Sunday as security forces fired on demonstrators in Tehran.

Intermittent protests in Iran following President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's controversial re-election in June have represented the biggest challenge to the government since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

On alert

Foreign media face severe restrictions in Iran, making reports hard to verify.

Injured Iranian police officers

BBC Tehran correspondent Jon Leyne, reporting from London, says the government's immediate response to the latest confrontation has been to arrest senior opposition figures, as it did after protests against the disputed presidential elections in June.

The authorities are blaming troublemakers for the violence, our correspondent says, with the police suggesting that protesters may have shot each other.

Among those reported arrested on Monday were opposition politician Ebrahim Yazdi, a foreign minister after the 1979 revolution and now leader of the Freedom Movement of Iran, his nephew, Lily Tavasoli.

The Parlemannews website reported that three aides to Mir Hossein Mousavi had been arrested.

It also named two aides to reformist former President Mohammad Khatami as being among those rounded up by the authorities.

Mousavi Tebrizi, a senior cleric from the holy city of Qom who is close to Mr Mousavi, is also reported to have been arrested, as is human-rights campaigner and journalist Emeddin Baghi.

Iranian security forces have been on alert since influential dissident cleric Grand Ayatollah Hoseyn Ali Montazeri died a week ago aged 87.

His funeral attracted tens of thousands of pro-reform supporters, many of whom shouted anti-government slogans.

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