Streets Of Iran Tense But Quiet

The Iranian opposition is trying to determine its next move after widespread clashes between police and demonstrators on Saturday. Iran's state-controlled media reported that 10 people were killed in those clashes. The Iranian government claims that outside powers are responsible for the street protests and the killings.

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We find Tehran tense but quiet today, and a political opposition ready to vary its protest style. It's calling on supporters to turn on their car headlights in late afternoon, a time when most protests have begun in Tehran. And later light up the dark with black candles encircled in green ribbons.

For its part, the government is turning up the volume on blaming the West for what's going on in that country. NPR's Mike Shuster is monitoring developments from Dubai.

MIKE SHUSTER: Now, after more than a week of confusion, Iran's leaders are getting on message. Today, the spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry said that Western powers and media are spreading anarchy and vandalism in Iran. The foreign minister said much the same thing in a meeting with foreign ambassadors yesterday, as did Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani.

Mr. ALI LARIJANI (Parliament Speaker, Iran): (Through translator) The stance taken by the American president, the British prime minister, the German chancellor and the French president in the past few days has revealed further signs of their desire to meddle in the affairs of the Iranian nation. It is shameful that America, which has inflicted such tyranny on Iran over the past half century, should now say it is concerned about Iran's territorial integrity and its human rights standards.

SHUSTER: Iranian police say they arrested more than 450 people during the clashes over the weekend. Press TV, Iran's 24-hour English-language satellite channel, said some are from the Mujahideen-e Khalq Organization, or MKO, a longtime foe of Iran's government that has been confined to a base in Iraq since the U.S. invasion there.

(Soundbite of news broadcast)

Unidentified Man #1: The Intelligence Ministry says the detainees have confessed they were trained in the MKO's Camp Ashraf in Iraq to carry out terrorist attacks inside Iran. They have also said they were directed by the MKO's command post in Britain.

SHUSTER: As a result of these claims, many who defend the actions of Iran's government, such as Ghanbar Naderi, an editor at the conservative Kayhan Newspaper, are now saying the government has no responsibility for those who died in the demonstrations.

Mr. GHANBAR NADERI (Editor, Kayhan Newspaper): Demonstrators were killed not by police, but by Islamic agents who are being supported and armed by outside countries. I assure you that this government will never take such a (unintelligible).

(Soundbite of crowd yelling)

SHUSTER: Iran's government has severely limited the number of foreign correspondents in the country and their freedom of movement. But many images and sounds from Saturday's clashes have been posted on the Internet. One demonstrator described what it was like to the BBC's Persian language service.

Unidentified Man #2: (Through translator) I witnessed security forces, and I couldn't tell if they were in uniform or plain clothing, opening fire directly on the crowd. All we could do was to run away. And I saw one person wounded on the ground. We kept hearing different things from those around us about the number of people killed or injured.

SHUSTER: Despite Saturday's violence, opposition leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi, who says Iran must hold a new presidential election, has appealed to his followers to keep up the pressure. The country is yours, he said in a statement on his Web site. Protesting lies and fraud is your right.

Mike Shuster, NPR News, Dubai.

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