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Mousavi's wife says Iran government illegitimate

TEHRAN (Reuters) - The wife of opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi called the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “illegitimate,” the reformist Kaleme website reported Thursday.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the most powerful figure in the Islamic establishment, has criticized Iran’s opposition leaders for disputing the legitimacy of Ahmadinejad’s government and for refusing to “bow before the law.”

“I have said many times that this government is illegitimate ... but because the government claims to be legitimate, it has to carry out its duties,” Zahra Rahnavard was quoted as saying on Kaleme, the website of her husband.

She also said the opposition movement would be present on March 17 when Iranians hold celebrations a few days before the country’s New Year (on March 21).

“We will be present that day... but will not take any extreme or violent action,” Rahnavard said.

Police officials have strongly warned the opposition against using the occasion to organize fresh protests and have said they will hold anyone arrested that day until the end of the Iranian new year holidays.

Iran’s disputed June presidential election, which secured Ahmadinejad’s re-election, plunged the country into its biggest unrest since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Opposition leaders Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi say the vote was rigged but authorities deny allegations of fraud and say the June election was the “healthiest” Iran has had in three decades.

Thousands of people, including senior reformers, were detained after the vote for fomenting unrest. Most of them have since been released, though more than 80 people have received jail sentences of up to 15 years.

Two people who were put on trial after the election have been executed.

Separately Thursday Kaleme quoted Mousavi as saying the opposition movement would “stand until we reach our goals.”

Rahnavard called on the authorities to release all pro-reform detainees and to respect “freedom of expression and thought.”

“Freedom, democracy and women’s rights is what we want to pursue,” she said.

Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton