Wednesday, June 17, 2009

IRAN....Time Tempers a Challenger Forged in Revolution


TEHRAN — His followers have begun calling him “the Gandhi of Iran.” His image is carried aloft in the vast opposition demonstrations that have roiled Iran in recent days, his name chanted in rhyming verses that invoke Islam’s most sacred martyrs.

Mir Hussein Moussavi has become the public face of the movement, the man the protesters consider the true winner of the disputed presidential election.

But he is in some ways an accidental leader, a moderate figure anointed at the last minute to represent a popular upwelling against the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He is far from being a liberal in the Western sense, and it is not yet clear how far he will be willing to go in defending the broad democratic hopes he has come to embody.

Mr. Moussavi, 67, is an insider who has moved toward opposition, and his motives for doing so remain murky. He was close to the founder of Iran’s Islamic revolution but is at odds with the current supreme leader. Some prominent figures have rallied to his cause, including a former president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. So it is not clear how much this battle reflects a popular resistance to Mr. Ahmadinejad’s hard-line policies, and how much is about a struggle for power.

Mr. Moussavi and his wife, who played a prominent role in his campaign, have been under enormous pressure to accept the election results, said a close relative who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The relative did not specify what kind of pressure.

“They are both being very courageous and are expecting the pressure to increase,” said the relative. “Mr. Moussavi says he has taken a path that has no return and he is ready to make sacrifices.”

Mr. Moussavi began his political career as a hard-liner and a favorite of the revolution’s architect, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Although he has long had an adversarial relationship with Iran’s current supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, his insider status makes him loath to mount a real challenge to the core institutions of the Islamic Republic. He was an early supporter of Iran’s nuclear program, and as prime minister in the 1980s he approved Iran’s purchase of centrifuges on the nuclear black market, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Yet like many founding figures of the revolution, he has come to believe that the incendiary radicalism of the revolution’s early days must be tempered in an era of peace and state-building, those who know him say. Some have seen a symbolic meaning in his decision to make Monday’s vast demonstration in Tehran a march from Enghelab (revolution) Square to Azadi (freedom) Square.

“He is a hybrid child of the revolution,” said Shahram Kholdi, a lecturer at the University of Manchester who has written about Mr. Moussavi’s political evolution. “He is committed to Islamic principles but has liberal aspirations.”

In recent days, Mr. Moussavi has been pushed inexorably toward a confrontation that carries terrible risks for both sides. If the authorities use force on a major scale to quell the protests, it could crush the movement. It could also generate martyrs and deeper public anger, swelling the demonstrations into a broader threat to the system Mr. Moussavi hopes to preserve.

The steadiness he has shown since the election results were announced Saturday has helped solidify his role as a leader and has heartened his followers.

“The demands of the people are the most important goal of the Islamic Republic,” Mr. Moussavi said as the polls closed on Friday night, in what was widely seen as a shot across the bow of Iran’s clerical leadership, and a warning that he would take his case public in the event of voter fraud.

Mr. Moussavi is in some ways an unlikely figurehead. Calm and deliberate, he has a soporific speaking manner, and even his most ardent defenders grant that he has little charisma. He was out of public life for two decades, a soft-spoken architect who loves to watch movies at home and was overshadowed for years by his distinguished wife, Zahra Rahnavard, a professor and artist.

Yet many also describe him as a resolute figure whose hard experience as Iran’s prime minister during the 1980s taught him not to fear risky decisions.

“He was an artist, a university professor with no experience, but he managed under harsh conditions to run a country of 35 million people through trial and error,” said Muhammad Atrianfar, who served as deputy interior minister under Mr. Moussavi, and later became a journalist. “The biggest result for him was the self-confidence he gained from that.”

As prime minister, he often clashed with Ayatollah Khamenei, who was president at the time. The fights were mostly over economic issues; Mr. Moussavi favored greater state control over the wartime economy, and Ayatollah Khamenei argued for less regulation. The president was more moderate on some issues, and unlike Mr. Moussavi, sometimes drew rebukes from Ayatollah Khomeini, then the supreme leader. In that sense they have switched positions, but the animus between them remains.

After stepping down in 1989, Mr. Moussavi kept a hand in politics, serving on Iran’s Expediency Council. But most of his time was devoted to architecture and painting. His chief influences include the Italian architect Renzo Piano, said a close relative.

“He takes some elements of modern Japanese architecture, and American postmodern, and then puts them in the context of Iranian architecture,” the relative said.

Although he is deeply religious, Mr. Moussavi (the name is also often rendered in English as Mir Hossein Mousavi) appears to hold relatively liberal social views. His wife is a well-known professor of political science who has campaigned alongside him, often giving speeches and news conferences independently. When they were younger, he was sometimes introduced as “the husband of Zahra Rahnavard.” His wife promised that if elected, he would advance women’s rights and appoint “at least two or three women” to the cabinet.

His oldest daughter is a nuclear physicist. The youngest prefers not to wear the Islamic chador, and her parents do not mind, the relative said. “There has never been any compulsion in the family,” the relative added.

In recent years, Mr. Moussavi was deeply dismayed by the excesses of the morality police and by the government’s decisions to shut down newspapers, his relative said.

He decided to run for president earlier this year to save Iran from what he said were Mr. Ahmadinejad’s “destructive” policies. But it was not until a few weeks ago that a popular movement began to build behind him. As the campaign drew to a close, Mr. Moussavi began answering the president’s rhetorical broadsides with some strong language of his own.

“When the president lies, nobody confronts him,” Mr. Moussavi said during his final debate appearance. “I’m a revolutionary and I’m speaking out against the situation he has created. He has filled the country with lies and hypocrisy. I’m not frightened to speak out. Remember that.”

For a long time, Mr. Moussavi was compared unfavorably to Mohammad Khatami, the charismatic reformist cleric who was president from 1997 to 2005. But many now say that during the recent protests, Mr. Moussavi had held firm against the government in ways Mr. Khatami never would have.

“He’s not as open-minded as Khatami,” said Nasser Hadian, a political analyst. “But he’s more of a man of action.”

Pakistan’s ‘Invisible Refugees’ Burden Cities

New York Times

MARDAN, Pakistan — The Khan family made it through Taliban rule, a military offensive and the three-day journey to this crowded city.

But after more than a month of living together — 75 people, three rooms, one bathroom — they might not survive one another.

“This is a test for us,” said Akhtar Jan, a mother of four who is part of the extended family. “If we don’t smile, we would be dead from crying.”

Pakistan is experiencing its worst refugee crisis since partition from India in 1947, and while the world may be familiar with the tent camps that have rolled out like carpets since its operation against the Taliban started in April, the overwhelming majority of the nearly three million people who have fled live unseen in houses and schools, according to aid agencies.

They are the invisible refugees, and their numbers have swollen the populations of towns like this one northwest of the capital, Islamabad, multiplying burdens on already sagging roads, schools, sewers and water supplies, and, not least, on their host families.

Most fled suddenly, without cash or belongings, and many have limited access to the millions of dollars in international aid that has been flowing in.

“People aren’t noticing them,” said Michael McGrath, Pakistan director of Save the Children, an aid organization that has focused on refugees outside of camps. “Their needs are not being met.”

Their hardships have made time of the essence. Refugees said they left their homes because they believed that the government was serious about stopping the militants this time. The more time passes, the more good will is lost, and the more likely they are to become frustrated with the war effort.

“This is it,” Hamid Akbar, 25, a refugee from the Swat Valley, said in Peshawar, the regional capital. “The military isn’t going to get another chance.”

But as far as the refugee crisis goes, the provincial and federal governments’ response has been haphazard, or non-existent. Refugees said in interviews last week that they saw no evidence of government assistance.

The main relief effort is instead carried out by aid organizations and the United Nations, which register refugees in the tent camps, most which are far from the city centers. Many of the displaced did not know how to register, or even that they could.

All of this puts the burden on their host families, who, according to a survey conducted by Save the Children, have taken in more than two families each. (The average family size is 10.)

It is a colossal act of charity. The survey found that only a third of refugees were living with relatives. The rest were staying with friends and even strangers.

“It would have been a disaster if these people didn’t take them into their homes,” said Azam Khanis, who is coordinating the provincial government’s aid effort.

But that generosity is not endless. It has been more than a month since Pakistan began the operation in Swat, and host families are tiring of their guests.

Ms. Jan said her family navigated daily life by assigning numbers to family members, divvying up bathroom time, sleeping time, and the time for cooking, which takes place over two blue propane gas canisters in a courtyard.

At night, 25 women and children sleep together in her room, covering the stone floor like a blanket. “Foot on mouth, hand in face,” are the words Ms. Jan uses to describe it.

They have taken over three spare rooms in a building reserved for guests that belongs to a local businessman. They get free lunches at a nearby school, but the rice is full of pebbles. For dinner, they are on their own. On a recent night, Ms. Jan cooked turnips.

“We are forgotten,” said Shah Khan, one of her cousins.

The Swat Valley, where the Khan family is from, is cool, green and full of streams and forests, and the searing heat of Mardan is unfamiliar. Children were lying in wilted forms on mats on the floor.

Hamza Bakht, 14, spends his days on the street for relief from the stifling two-room apartment where his 40-member family is living. When he was home in the Swat Valley, his parents shut him inside and forbade him to go out after school, for fear that he would be forcibly recruited by the Taliban, whose foot soldiers were mostly teenagers.

“Mostly I watched TV,” he said.

None of Hamza’s friends had joined the Taliban, but he knew boys his age who had. They were tempted by simple things, he said, like military training exercises that “made you feel manlike, as if you were defending something.”

Members of his own family were convinced. One of his aunts giggled that her sister had given her jewelry to the Taliban.

“They told us they were building a seminary,” said the sister, looking apologetic. “We didn’t know they’d do this to us.”

For women, the dynamic is different. In many traditional families, women are not allowed to mix with men who are not close family members, a rule that now requires acrobatic feats and that can be infuriating for the hosts, making them unwelcome strangers in their own homes. They are Pashtun, an ethnicity famous for its hospitality, but tradition is being stretched to its limit.

“I thought they’d be living with us for a week, but it’s been a month,” said Noman Ashraf, a teacher, whose mother and sister moved to a relative’s house to make room for 16 Swat refugees, mostly women and children.

Every part of his daily routine is different. He cannot go into the kitchen to have his morning tea, because the women are there. He does not set his alarm for morning prayer so as not to wake the five men who are sleeping beside him. Children — at least six — tumble through the house, hiding combs and rolls of tape, and demanding to watch television in Mr. Ashraf’s room just as he begins to grade papers.

“It’s a sort of hospitality,” he said. “I can’t tell them no.”

But he added, “I can’t explain in words how much I am suffering.”

Shy to ask the new women to wash his dirty clothes, he sends them to his mother and sister in the village, about an hour’s drive away. One day, the water ran out because the women forgot to turn on the pump, leaving Mr. Ashraf fully soaped and shivering with fury.

“This could happen to my family too,” he said. “It’s a test. If I’m not patient, it’s possible that God will notice.”

Pakistan to boost Swat valley police
Thousands of people who suffered under the brutal rule of the Taliban in Pakistan's Swat valley could be recruited into a bolstered police force as part of a plan to protect the area against a possible resurgence of militants.

With the valley's police force severely depleted as a result of the Taliban's policy of targeting security officials, the authorities see rebuilding the forces of law and order as an essential component of restoring public confidence and persuading people to return.

To speed up the process of building the force, the authorities intend to recruit 6,000 civilians and 2,500 former military personnel. Many of those who sign up are likely to be recruited by officials touring refugee camps that are home to hundreds of thousands of people forced out of their homes when the military launched its operation to oust the Taliban from the Swat valley. Preference is to be given to the Taliban's victims.

"[To fight an insurgency] the people have to be actively with you," Malik Naveed Khan, the inspector general of police for the North West Frontier Province, told the Associated Press.

Before the militants invaded the Swat valley in 2007, the popular tourist destination was considered a "soft district". Crime rates were low and there were around just 2,000 lightly armed officers for a population of around 1.75 million.

The police were easily overwhelmed by the insurgents who attacked their buildings, beheaded officers and targeted checkpoints. Such was the fear among the police that many took out advertisements with local newspapers announcing that they had left the force and were no longer officers. The pressure from militants, led by the radical cleric Maulana Fazlullah was relentless; at least 120 officers were killed and around 700 quit.

Mr Khan said the authorities were looking for "able-bodied, tough people with a clear background". He said the salary for the police will be about £80 a month.

* Pakistani police investigating the attack on the Sri Lanka cricket team in Lahore in March said they have made their first arrest. Six other suspects are said to have fled to the Afghan border region.

Frontier govt unveils Rs214bn budget

PESHAWAR: The conflict-riddled Frontier government on Wednesday unveiled a deficit budget with a total outlay of Rs 214.181 billion and annual development programme worth Rs 51.156 billion for financial year 2009-10.

NWFP Senior Minister for Planning and Development Rahim dad Khan tabled the budgetary proposals for next financial year in the provincial assembly, which met amid extraordinary security arrangements.

The minister in his budget speech claimed that no new tax has been levied in the next budget, however, the Finance Bill 2009 contains proposals for increasing the ratio of different provincial taxes and duties including property tax besides bringing a number of new sectors into the tax net.

The new sectors to be taxed under professional tax are restaurants, professional caterers, wedding halls and charted accountant firms that is likely to spark resentment from different businesses and service providers, who are already bearing the brunt of worsening law and order situation in the province.

The provincial government anticipates collecting additional resources worth Rs 1.317 billion through increasing the ratio of different taxes and bringing more sectors into the tax net, an official privy to the development told Dawn.

The budget carries proposals of relief measures for serving and retired civil servants, internally displaced persons and creation of a Provincial Employment Fund for unemployed youth are major attractions in the new budget.

The provincial government, according to budget estimates, anticipates total revenue receipts to the tune of Rs 211.114 billion, which is almost 40 per cent higher than the revised revenue receipts of the outgoing financial year.

Against the available resources, the estimated expenditures in the next financial year have been projected at Rs 214.181 billion, showing a deficit of Rs 3.066 billion, which the minister did not elaborate on how it would be tackled in the next fiscal year.

Analysts believe the revenue shortfall of the cash-strapped province will grow further because the impact of 15 per cent pay and pension rise of the government servants have not been taken into account.

As new battlefields are being marked in the southern parts of the province, they say the financial woes of the government will grow because of another spell of mass displacement and massive mobilization of security personnel.

In the outgoing fiscal year total budget outlay was projected at Rs 170.904 billion, however, it stood at Rs 159.451 billion as per the revised estimates because of lower-than-budgeted transfers from the federal government.

The provincial government had projected the outgoing budget as surplus with Rs 345.561 million; however it ended up at a major deficit of Rs 9.149 billion.

According to budget estimates for next financial year, the total general revenue receipts of the province stand at Rs 113.688 billion, which include Rs 67.808 billion from federal divisible pool, Rs 7.549 billion as royalty on gas and oil production, Rs 2.110 billion as province share on GST on services and Rs 7.861 billion to be collected on account of sales tax for district and cantonment boards in lieu of defunct Zilla Tax.

Similarly, special grant worth Rs 14.822 billion from the federal government as determined under interim National Finance Commission (NFC) award and Rs 6 billion-capped proceeds on account of net hydel profit are also part of revenue receipts of the next financial year.

The provincial government’s own contribution to the overall resource pool will be merely three per cent, the lowest-ever, of the total revenue in the next fiscal year.

According to the budget estimates target for provincial own receipts (POR) has been set at Rs 7.537 billion, showing an increase of almost 17 per cent comparing to the recoveries of the outgoing fiscal year.

An amount of Rs 97.244 billion on account of capital and development receipts from federal and foreign lenders and donors are also part of the expected revenue in the next fiscal year.

Against the total revenue collection, an amount of Rs 80 billion would be spent on general administration, Rs 3.266 billion on debt serving, Rs 51.156 billion on development and Rs 79.757 billion on state trading, which mainly deals with procurement of wheat for the local consumption from the open market.

Of the total revenue to be spent on general administration, public order and safety affairs carries an allocation of Rs 11.487 billion, major portion of which will be consumed by the police, fighting militancy in almost 70 per cent areas of the province.

Regular budget of the police has been projected at Rs 9.677 billion in the next financial year, which almost 48 per cent higher than the estimates of outgoing fiscal year. This amount will be spent on creation of special elite force, incentive to the constables and compensation to the heirs of police personnel killed in the line of duty.

The regular budget of health and education, the two traditionally priority areas, have been slightly increased with allocation of Rs 2.989 billion and Rs 3.942 billion respectively in the next fiscal year.

The next year Annual Development Programme (ADP) carries a total outlay of Rs 51.156 billion, which is almost 31 per cent higher than the development budget of the outgoing fiscal year.

Of the total ADP, Rs 32.546 billion would be spent on uplift schemes being executed through own resources, Rs 10.050 billion on federal projects, Rs 574 billion on population welfare programme, Rs 6.644 billion on foreign funded projects and Rs 1.341 billion would be spent on uplift schemes to be executed by the district and Tehsil governments.

Referring relief measures of the budget, the minister announced setting up a Provincial Employment Fund with an allocation of Rs 500 million. This fund, he said, would be utilized for lending soft loans to unemployed youth, particularly from the rural areas.

The main areas of lending would be small cottage industry, food processing industry, small scale trading, setting up of shops and hotels and procuring tractors and auto rickshaws.

Similarly, public sector serving and retired employees have been given 15 per cent raise in salary and pension with effect from July 1st, which is going to consume Rs 3.9 billion in the next fiscal year.

All the government servants from grade 1 to 16 have been exempted from paying professional tax with effect from July 1st, while ratio of Unattractive Area Allowance for government employees, serving in Chitral and Kohistan districts have been substantially increased in the next year budget.

Every displaced woman would be given Rs 10,000 on giving birth in government camps. Similarly, the provincial government will bear one year fee and boarding expenses of the displaced college and university students from restive Malakand region, the minister added.

Iranian-Americans say history is at hand

(CNN) -- Some Iranian-Americans, watching the post-election unrest in Iran, say the tug-of-war between the people and their hardline government has come to a head after three decades.

"I am absolutely convinced that what we are witnessing is a turning point in the history of the Islamic Republic," said Dr. Hamid Dabashi, professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University in New York City.

"Even if the Islamic Republic survives this crisis, it will no longer be as it used to be," added Dabashi.

The contentious election results between conservative incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and reformist challenger Mir Hossein Moussavi sent many Iranians protesting in the streets, while others celebrated Ahmadinejad's apparent victory.

Kaveh Afrasiabi, who has taught at Tehran University and Boston University and identifies himself as an independent, told CNN that Ahmadinejad's widespread support in rural areas and small towns was the reason for his win. In results announced hours after the polls closed, Ahmadinejad received more than 62 percent of the vote, a figure hotly disputed by Moussavi's supporters.

With the credibility of Friday's election under scrutiny, how the Islamic Republic of Iran overcomes it and reclaims its legitimacy in the eyes of some of its own citizens and the international community remains to be seen.

"There is good reason to believe that many if not most of the pro-Moussavi demonstrators are gladly taking an opportunity to safely protest something bigger: their enormous discontent with the entire system as it stands," said Shirin Sadeghi, a Middle East analyst for the Huffington Post.

The unstable political, social and economic climate has some scholars questioning the future of the Islamic Republic.

"They are either going to crack down severely or they are going to cave in -- it could go either way," Dabashi said of the conservatives who now dominate Iran's government.

Many Iranian-Americans say they see this as their opportunity for change.

"This is the best chance Iranians have to evolve to a better situation," said Dr. Ali Nayeri, a professor at the University of California at Irvine.

That chance has sparked an unprecedented wave of spontaneous demonstrations not only within Iran but also thousands of miles away from Tehran --- scenes unparalleled since the 1979 revolution.

"Thirty years ago we had the war with Iraq. Now we have an internal war with our president and the fundamentalists," said Reza Goharzad, a political analyst who worked with Moussavi when he was prime minister of Iran.

Goharzad, of Southern California, was among thousands of voters to cast an absentee ballot.

"This was the first time I voted in 30 years," said Goharzad.

The enthusiasm that drove record numbers of Iranian-Americans to the voting booths was overshadowed by disappointment when a shortage of ballots prevented hundreds from voting. In addition, the election results were announced before many of the voting booths in the U.S. had closed.

Alex Vatanka, senior Middle East analyst at IHS Jane's, a provider of defense and security information, said Iran's supreme ruler, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, may have miscalculated the mood of the country when he endorsed Ahmadinejad's victory before the country's election authority made the final call. Khamenei has since asked the authority, the Guardian Council, to recount some of the votes. But Moussavi is asking for fresh elections.

Goharzad, like many other voters, questions the legitimacy of the election. He wants to know where his vote went.

A student activist in Dallas, Texas, echoed that sentiment.

"The election volunteer at my voting location said that they had 500 ballots, which was not enough for the thousand or so people that turned out to vote," said the activist, who wanted to remain anonymous because he plans to visit Iran soon.

For the first time, Iranian-Americans say, the post-revolution generation has seen the power of their unity unfold in masses. They say this has given Iranians at home and abroad hope that reform could be within their reach, if the ruling mullahs are willing to allow it.

"We are seeing a rise of a new generation of Iranians who are not taking it anymore," said Dabashi.

"This is no longer just about this election, this is full-fledged civil disobedience," he added.

The divide within the Islamic Republic has pitted the reformists against the conservatives.

"The big difference between these protests and the student riots of 1999 and 2001 is that we are seeing senior caliber officials like Mir Hossein Moussavi, Mehdi Karrubi and Mohammad Khatami and Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani supporting the demonstrations," said Vatanka.

Karrubi is a former Parliament speaker. Khatami and Rafsanjani are former presidents.

Some experts say where Iran is headed actually has a lot to do with its past.

"Rafsanjani made no secret of his disdain for Ahmadinejad ahead of the election, and even back in 2005 when he lost the second round runoff to Ahmadinejad," said Sadeghi.

Rafsanjani is chairman of the Assembly of Experts and oversees the 86-member body, which is responsible for appointing the supreme leader and monitoring his performance.

Behind closed doors, Iran's political parties are caught in the middle of a power struggle between Supreme Leader Khamenei and Rafsanjani.

Rafsanjani's role as chairman of the assembly gives him the ability to influence that body's attitudes toward Khamenei, Vatanka said.

That could only add more fuel to the political fire and social unrest in the streets, analysts say.

Politics aside, at the end of the day, Iranian expatriates such as Mitra Gholami, who participated in the historic 1979 protests, feel a sense of deja vu.

Gholami, now an Atlanta resident, fled Iran with her three children 15 years ago. "I want people to have a normal life," said Gholami. "I want them to have freedom."

Bracing for New Protests, Iran Issues Media Warning

TEHRAN — Tehran braced for a possible third day of defiance by opposition supporters on Wednesday after Iran’s leaders failed to halt huge demonstrations against last week’s disputed election results.

Placed on the defensive by the biggest demonstrations since the Islamic revolution in 1979, the authorities on Tuesday offered a concession to the sustained rage here, saying they would allow a limited recount of the vote — an offer that was resoundingly rejected.

But there were signs on Wednesday that the authorities were preparing to deepen a crackdown on the way news about the protest is being spread. On Tuesday, the government revoked press credentials for foreign journalists and ordered journalists not to report from the streets.

And on Wednesday, The Associated Press reported, the powerful Revolutionary Guards went further, threatening restrictions on the digital online media that many Iranians use to communicate among themselves and to send news of their protests overseas.

In a first statement since last Friday’s vote, the Revolutionary Guards said Iranian Web site operators and bloggers must remove content deemed to “create tension” or face legal action, the A.P. said. Despite that warning, new amateur video surfaced outside of Iran on Wednesday, apparently showing a government militia rampaging through a dormitory area of Tehran University late Tuesday or early on Wednesday.

Reuters reported, meanwhile, that Mohammadreza Habibi, the senior prosecutor in the central province of Isfahan, had warned demonstrators that they could be executed under Islamic law.

“We warn the few elements controlled by foreigners who try to disrupt domestic security by inciting individuals to destroy and to commit arson that the Islamic penal code for such individuals waging war against God is execution,” Mr. Habibi said, according to the Fars news agency. It was not clear if his warning applied only to Isfahan or the country as a whole, Reuters said.

The developments came a day after supporters of the defeated opposition presidential candidate, Mir Hussein Moussavi, jammed into a line more than a mile long in Tehran. They marched mostly in silence, some carrying signs in English asking, “Where is my vote?”

The numbers of opposition protesters did not match those on Monday, when hundreds of thousands of Iranians joined the demonstrations, enraged that the conservative president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was declared the winner of Friday’s election with 63 percent of the votes.

Fear, many said, was a factor. Seven protesters were killed following the demonstrations on Monday. Gritty and uncensored images, some taken by cellphone cameras, were beamed around the world via various Web sites.

“Nothing will change if we don’t come,” said one protester, Madjid, 26, an employee of the Foreign Ministry who was afraid to give his family name. “We need to become a big force to achieve what we want.”

Worry over the future of Iran, a country crucially important for its oil, its proximity to Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, its nuclear program and its ties to extremist groups, spilled over its borders.

In Washington, President Obama said that it would be counterproductive for the United States “to be seen as meddling” in the disputed presidential election. He dismissed criticism that he had failed to speak out forcefully enough about the growing unrest in Iran.

“I have deep concerns about the election,” Mr. Obama told reporters at the White House. “I think that the world has deep concerns about the election.”

In Vienna, Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the United Nations atomic energy watchdog, said in a BBC interview that he believed Iran wanted to develop nuclear weapons technology “to be recognized as a major power in the Middle East.”

As the confrontation inside Iran continued to build momentum on Tuesday, each side laid down more cards.

Reformers, with substantial popular support but without the power of the state, worked to gain religious backers, urging clerics to break with the government. “No one in his sane mind can accept these results,” a senior opposition cleric, Hassan-Ali Montazeri, said in a public letter posted on his Web site.

Supporters of Mr. Ahmadinejad — though apparently fewer than 10,000 of them — marched through Tehran’s streets proclaiming their candidate the election’s fair winner and chanting, “Rioters should be executed!”

In an intervention that suggested a growing concern over the scale of the protests, the nation’s supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, took the unusual step of meeting with representatives of the four presidential candidates, urging national unity for the second time in recent days. He did not address the protesters’ demands for a new election.

The Guardian Council, the watchdog body that must certify the results, said it was willing to conduct a partial recount of the votes, the IRNA news agency reported. Ayatollah Khamenei, who had urged the council on Monday to examine the vote-rigging claims, said Tuesday that the candidates needed to resolve the issue through legal channels.

Mr. Moussavi’s representative, Ali Akbar Mohtashamipour, said a recount would not meet the demands of the protesters, Ghalamnews, a Web site linked to Mr. Moussavi, reported.

“We believe there has been fraud because our representatives were not allowed to supervise the elections, and we have evidence of many irregularities,” he was quoted as saying.

He gave an example: votes cast at some polling places, he said, exceeded the number of eligible voters in those areas. He also said the Guardian Council had not been impartial before the election because some of its members campaigned for Mr. Ahmadinejad.

Despite the crackdown on the news media, an extraordinary amount of information about the protests in Tehran and other cities has reached the outside world. On Tuesday, many Web sites posted a wrenching video that purported to show the death of a student in Isfahan in a shooting by pro-government militia members. Other videos showed bleeding and inert demonstrators from Tehran after the large protests on Monday.

In Tuesday’s demonstration here, a witness saw a member of the Basij militia loyal to Mr. Ahmadinejad opening fire on a group of people, hitting one person in the neck. Protesters attacked a group of the militia members and set one of their motorcycles on fire.

There were reports that at least two moderate politicians, Mohammad Ali Abtahi and Saeed Hajarian, as well as two other activists, were arrested on Tuesday. The government arrested more than 100 politicians and activists on Sunday. Some have been released.

The English-language Press TV wing of state-owned television said Behzad Nabavi, another reformist politician, had also been arrested. The detainees include politicians, intellectuals, activists and journalists, the A.P. reported.

In Paris, Soazig Dollet, a spokeswoman for Reporters Without Borders, a press freedom advocacy group, said at least 11 reporters had been arrested since the elections and the fate of 10 more was unclear since they may either be in hiding or under arrest.

On its Web site, the organization said Aldolfatah Soltani, a lawyer and human rights activist, had been detained along with “10 or so opposition activists, politicians and civil society figures” in Tehran and three other cities — Tabriz, Isfahan and Shiraz.