ALISON STEWART, host:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Scott Simon is away this week. I'm Alison Stewart.
The situation in Tehran is confusing at this hour. Supporters of the losing candidates in the recent disputed presidential election had planned to hold a mass march in central Tehran. But after a hard-line speech yesterday by Iran's supreme leader, a group of liberal clerics called off their planned march.
Iran's police command issued a statement that no rallies will be lawful anywhere in the country. Those who violate that edict will be confronted according to the law, the statement said.
NPR's Mike Shuster joins us from nearby Dubai, where he has been monitoring developments in Iran. And Mike, it seems the situation in Tehran is tense and uncertain.
MIKE SHUSTER: Yeah, it does certainly seem that way. Everything that I'm hearing suggests that Tehran is as tense as it's been over the last 10 or 12 days. There is maximum pressure that the government of Iran is putting on Mir Hossein Mousavi and the other top figures who are supporting him.
As far as I can tell, there is a big police presence deployed in central Tehran and there are police deployments at both squares, which are the two ends, endpoints of the rally that was supposed to take place today.
The national police, the interior ministry, and Iran's national security council have all issued very tough statements toward Mousavi and his supporters. The top police commander has said that Mousavi and other leaders will be arrested if supporters take to the streets. The interior ministry Web site says Mousavi is supporting protests that have led to the disruption of security and public order in Tehran.
And the national security council has issued a statement that Mousavi - calling him to refrain from provoking illegal rallies. And this of course comes after the supreme leader's speech. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei yesterday told the nation that these marches must be stopped, and if they don't and if there's bloodshed, the political leaders will be held accountable.
So a big police presence and a lot of tension in Tehran today.
STEWART: But is it clear whether the opposition is gathering for any kind of rally? Who supports it, who doesn't?
SHUSTER: No, it's not quite clear and I think that's in part because there is so little international news presence on the streets of Tehran right now. There are a couple of elements to this.
Mehdi Karoubi, who is another one of the losing candidates in the disputed presidential election, he had called for his followers to march and he called them off today. There's also a group called the Association of Combatant Clerics, who are somewhat liberal reformist-oriented clerics. They had called for a demonstration as well but they asked for permission from the interior ministry. The interior ministry said no, and so they called off their demonstration.
There's a statement attributed to Mousavi's wife, Zahra Rahnavard, saying on some Web site that people should take to the streets. But people were also waiting for a clear definitive call from Mousavi himself and that hasn't come so far. So there's confusion then and there may be a lot of confusion in the minds of potentials marchers as well.
STEWART: Another facet of this situation: there was also supposed to be a meeting today between the Guardian Council and the three losing candidates to discuss their demands. Did that come off?
SHUSTER: Yes, the meeting came off, but only one of the losing candidates attended. Mousavi and Karoubi, who are those who have lodged the largest number of complaints, were not present. The Guardian Council said it was willing to recount 10 percent of the vote in a kind of random sampling of ballot boxes.
Mousavi has said he wants an election to be held again, a new election entirely, so not much movement there.
STEWART: We've got a little bit of time left. Is this a test now of the supreme leader's power?
SHUSTER: I think a lot of people think that it is. Up until now, the challenge has been primarily to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and that has been the mood on the streets. The marchers really do not like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
But with the supreme leader's speech yesterday, he's essentially put his power and his influence on the line, and if people do come out and challenge that, they're challenging directly his rule in Iran.
STEWART: Mike Shuster reporting from Dubai. Thank you, Mike.
To follow a live Twitter feed about Iran's election aftermath and to see a slideshow of the activists and politicians who've been arrested this week, come to our blog, NPR.org/Soapbox.
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