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Iran vows to crush protesters

IRAN'S most powerful security force threatened yesterday to crush any further opposition protests over the disputed presidential election, warning demonstrators to prepare for a "revolutionary confrontation" if they take to the streets again. It was the sternest warning yet from the elite Revolutionary Guard.

The country's highest electoral authority, the Guardian Council, acknowledged voting irregularities in 50 electoral districts in the June 12 vote, the most serious official admission so far of problems in the election that the opposition has labeled a fraud. But the council insisted the problems did not affect the outcome of the vote. The electoral council said President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won by a landslide.

The Revolutionary Guard, in a statement posted on its Website, warned protesters to "be prepared for a resolution and revolutionary confrontation with the Guards, Basij and other security forces and disciplinary forces" if they continue their near-daily rallies.

The Basij, a plainclothes militia under the command of the Revolutionary Guard, has been used to quell streets protests that erupted after the election result was announced. At least 17 protesters have been killed, says an official Iranian toll.

The Guard statement ordered demonstrators to "end the sabotage and rioting activities" and said their resistance is a "conspiracy" against Iran.

Opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi vowed on Sunday night to keep up the protests, charging the election was a fraud. The 67-year-old Mousavi, who heads a youth-driven movement for reform, claims he was the true winner of the election.

His statement was in defiance of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who holds ultimate power in Iran. In a sermon to tens of thousands last Friday, Khamenei said demonstrators must stop their street protests or face the consequences and that he firmly backed Ahmadinejad's victory.

Mousavi's Website called yesterday for supporters to turn on their car lights in the late afternoon as a sign of protest. Mousavi's latest statements posted on his Website also warned supporters of danger ahead and said he would stand by the protesters "at all times." But he said he would "never allow anybody's life to be endangered because of my actions" and called for pursuing fraud claims through an independent board.

The former prime minister, a longtime loyalist of the Islamic government, also called the Basij and military "our brothers" and "protectors of our revolution and regime."

Mousavi ally and former President Mohammad Khatami said in a statement that "protest in a civil manner and avoiding disturbances is the definite right of the people and all must respect that."

Iran state media reported at least 10 people were killed in the fiercest clashes yet on Saturday and 100 were injured. Police said yesterday 457 people were arrested on Saturday alone, but did not say how many were arrested earlier.


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