World News

Iran election anniversary rally called off

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran’s opposition has cancelled plans for a rally to mark the anniversary of last June’s presidential election, due to fears for people’s lives in any government crackdown, a reformist website reported on Thursday.

The two main opposition leaders, Mirhossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi, had asked for permission to stage a peaceful commemoration of the disputed vote on Saturday.

But in a joint statement they said it was obvious that this would not be granted and that they had therefore called off the event to protect lives and property.

“A number of parties and reformist groups have given similar requests to the interior ministry ... and they have announced that they have no hope that they would get permission from this government,” said the statement, carried on Karoubi’s website Saham News.

“Now that we are 48 hours from the time of the rally ... in order to preserve people’s lives and property, the expected rally will not be held.”

The re-election of hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on June 12 last year sparked nationwide street protests amid accusations of vote rigging -- the worst civil unrest since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The government called the protests “sedition” and blamed foreign powers opposed to the Islamic Republic for fomenting “riots”. The demonstrations were put down violently, with at least 30 people killed and thousands arrested.

In their statement, the opposition leaders said the reform movement had not been defeated and repeated their assertion that the Ahmadinejad government had no mandate.

“The movement is alive and the real pride belongs to those who are still continuing their rightful protest despite all threats, dangers, insecurities, and knowing well the ... consequences,” it said.

“This is the tradition of an illegitimate government which does not give permission to hold rallies to anyone other than its supporters. But the path which you, the great nation of Iran, have chosen cannot be blocked ... and we will stand by you until the arrival of the bright morning of tomorrow.”

Reporting by Robin Pomeroy; Editing by Janet Lawrence