ROME, June 23 Acclaimed Iranian film-maker Mohsen Makhmalbaf is using his celebrity status to support a campaign by Iran's opposition to urge the international community not to recognise President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
"This wasn't electoral fraud. This was a coup," Makhmalbaf told reporters in Rome. "What we ask of foreign governments is to not recognise Ahmadinejad's government."
Makhmalbaf, director of films including "Kandahar" and "Boycott", is one of challenger Mirhossein Mousavi's most well-known and vocal supporters abroad ever since authorities said Ahmadinejad won the disputed June 12 vote.
Makhmalbaf said he had been communicating with Mousavi indirectly since the vote and predicted that Iran's most widespread protests since the 1979 revolution would continue with a general strike and civil resistance.
"Our request is for new elections under (the supervision) of the international community and the United Nations so there can be no more fraud," he said.
Brought up in a run-down area of Tehran, Makhmalbaf, 52, left school at the age of 15 to form a religious activist group opposing the Shah.
He was arrested in a street clash with the police and spent more than four years in jail as a political prisoner.
Released in the early days of Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution, he said that between 1985 and 1990 he was given a free rein to say more or less what he wanted on social issues.
Makhmalbaf said that unlike the generation that led the 1979 revolution, young protesters taking to the streets today were not driven by religious beliefs.
"Today's youth are not religious. They are not against religion but they are not religious," he said.
Asked what Mousavi wanted from the protesters, Makhmalbaf said strong, relentless protest.
"(He) asks that people take to the streets in the day and the rooftops at night, shouting," Makhmalbaf said.
(Reporting by Phil Stewart, editing by Elizabeth Fullerton)