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Iran finds no 'major' election fraud

THE Iranian government stiffened its stance against protesters yesterday, firmly rejecting demands to annul the election over fraud allegations, setting up a special court for detained demonstrators and keeping troops in riot gear on the streets to break up any gatherings.

Opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi has been out of sight in recent days, and there were no reports of violent clashes yesterday, possibly a measure of the effectiveness of the crackdown.

In recent days, members of the elite Revolutionary Guard, the Basij militia and other security forces in riot gear have been heavily deployed across Tehran, preventing any gatherings and ordering people to keep moving. A protest of some 200 people on Monday was quickly broken up with tear gas and shots in the air, while helicopters hovered overhead.

Mousavi claims he was the true winner of the June 12 election, but the electoral commission declared that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won by a landslide.

Another opposition figure, reformist presidential candidate Mahdi Karroubi, called for a day of mourning for the at least 17 people killed in protests since the election.

Mousavi has charged massive vote fraud. However, Iran's top electoral body, the Guardian Council, found "no major fraud or breach in the election," spokesman Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei was quoted by Press TV as saying yesterday. "Therefore, there is no possibility of an annulment taking place."

The 12-member council has the authority to annul or validate the election.

On Monday, it acknowledged in a rare step that it found voting irregularities in 50 of 170 districts, including vote counts that exceeded the number of eligible voters.

Still, it said the discrepancies, involving some 3 million votes, were not widespread enough to affect the outcome.

Iran has 46.2 million eligible voters, one-third of them under 30.

The final tally was 62.6 percent of the vote for Ahmadinejad and 33.75 percent for Mousavi, officials said.

Meanwhile, Ebrahim Raisi, a top judicial official, confirmed yesterday that a special court has been set up to deal with detained protesters.

"Elements of riots must be dealt with to set an example. The judiciary will do that," he was quoted as saying by the state-run radio, which gave no further details. The judiciary is controlled by Iran's ruling clerics.

Ahmadinejad won crucial backing from Russia yesterday, with the Foreign Ministry in Moscow saying it respects the declared election result.

In a statement on its Website, the ministry said that disputes about the vote "should be settled in strict compliance with Iran's Constitution and law" and are "exclusively an internal matter."


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