TEHRAN – A security crackdown appears to have quelled street rallies against Iran's disputed poll, but the leadership faced a new challenge on Wednesday from calls by reformist clerics for national mourning for dead protesters.
(EDITORS' NOTE: Reuters and other foreign media are subject to Iranian restrictions on their ability to report, film or take pictures in Tehran.)
While defiant cries of Allahu Akbar (God is greatest) were again heard from Tehran rooftops as darkness descended overnight, Iran's hardline Islamist leadership, for now at least, seemed to have gained the upper hand.
Riot police and Basij militia appeared to have largely ended mass protests against the June 12 election, which reformists say was rigged to return President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power and keep out moderate former Prime Minister Mirhossein Mousavi.
At least 10 protesters were killed in the worst violence on Saturday, and about seven more early last week. Many of the deaths have been filmed by fellow demonstrators, posted on the Internet and viewed by thousands around the world.
U.S. President Barack Obama toughened his stance on Tuesday and said he was appalled and outraged by Iran's crackdown.
Iran has accused the protesters of being backed by the West, the United States and Britain in particular, and have paraded arrested young demonstrators on state television confessing to being incited by foreign news broadcasts.
Rioters confess: Western media duped us, the conservative Kayhan International newspaper said in a front-page headline.
The Foreign Ministry accused U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of interfering in Iran's affairs under the influence of some powers, an apparent reference to Britain and the United States.
Ahmadinejad would be sworn in before parliament sometime between July 26 and August 19, the English-language Iran News said on Wednesday.
Tehran's hardline leadership is locked in a dispute with Western powers over its nuclear programme, which it says is intended for generating electricity but which the West suspects could yield nuclear weapons that could destabilize the region.
Obama said the United States would not interfere in the protests, describing accusations it was instigating them as patently false and absurd.
This tired strategy of using old tensions to scapegoat other countries won't work any more in Iran, he said.
Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, a dissident but yet one of the most senior clerics in Iran, called for three days of national mourning from Wednesday for those killed.
Resisting the people's demand is religiously prohibited, Montazeri said in a statement on his website.
Montazeri was once named successor to Ayatollah Rohullah Khomeini, but fell out with the founder of the Islamic Republic shortly before his death in 1989. Montazeri has been under house arrest in the holy city of Qom for around a decade.
Reformist cleric Mehdi Karoubi who came third in the election also signaled opposition would continue, calling on Iranians to hold ceremonies on Thursday to mourn the dead.
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who holds all the key levers of power in Iran, accepted a request from Iran's top legislative body to allow five more days for candidates to lodge complaints over the election.
The 12-man Guardian Council though has already rejected demands for a vote re-run from Mousavi, who says he is the rightful victor.
(Additional reporting by Zahra Hosseinian, Hashem Kalantari and Hossein Jaseb; Writing by Jon Hemming; Editing by Ralph Gowling)