Tehran (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Several thousand people clashed with police yesterday evening, amid increased tension with Great Britain and the European Union over the arrest of local British embassy employees, accused of having played an important role in recent demonstrations.
After several days of apparent calm – following the harsh repression of opposition protests - at least 3 thousand people gathered in front of the mosque in Ghoba yesterday. The police charged the crowd with truncheons and tear gas. An elderly woman was beaten and there were clashes between police and young people. According to some witnesses Mehdi Kharroubi was at the event as well as representatives of Mir Hossein Moussavi, the two losing presidential candidates who have rejected the outcome of the June 12th elections and have called for new elections.
This morning the Council of Guardians began the review of 10% of the polls to verify the election result which gave victory to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. According to the opposition, there were at least 600 cases of fraud. Moussavi and Kharroubi have said they do not accept the mini-review and demand for new elections in the presence of international observers.
Yesterday, European Union Foreign Ministers condemned the arrest of 8 local British embassy employees, accused of having fomented events in recent days. According to the official Iranian television five of them were released. The EU ministers have demanded their complete release and warned that "harassment or intimidation" of embassy staff would be met with a "strong and collective" response.
The government of Ahmadinejad and the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei are faced with the deepest crisis in the 30 years of the Islamic Republic, with an opposition that tends to deprive them of prestige. The government’s response is increasingly harsh. In addition to suppression of the demonstrations – with at least 17 dead - there are ongoing arrests. According to the International Federation for Human Rights to date at least 2 thousand people have been arrested.
Then behind the crisis seen on the streets there is increasing division in the leadership. According to analysts, the Council of experts, the major ayatollahs, the government, parliament, the army and even the Revolutionary Guards (Pasdaran) are divided.