Iran's Khatami supports peaceful protest

TEHRAN, June 15 (Reuters) - Reformist former president Mohammad Khatami criticised Iranian authorities on Monday for denying permission for a rally in Tehran and said the country's disputed election last week had dented public trust.

Khatami said supporters of defeated election candidate Mirhossein Mousavi had a right to peaceful protest, and said he would have joined them if the Interior Ministry had given permission for their planned rally to take place.

"I was determined to take part in today's peaceful demonstration and speak to you and express my practical protest to the unkindness done to the people and the revolution," Khatami said in a faxed statement.

Despite the ban on a rally "you and we will nevertheless continue our movement in this course and would expect that the clear demands of Mr Mousavi, which is the demand of all of us, will be heeded," he said.

Mousavi has appealed the Iran's watchdog Guardian Council to annul the result.

Khatami, who served as president from 1997-2005, remains popular in Iran and publicly backed Mousavi's election bid. Mousavi was soundly defeated by hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Friday's election, but has rejected the result as a "dangerous charade".

"What took place in the course of the recent presidential elections produced a blemish in the public trust, and led to ... natural and emotional reactions," Khatami said.

"... Your cheerful and joyous presence through peaceful means, which you have observed, is your right," he said, urging Mousavi supporters to ensure their protests were legal and remained calm.

On Monday supporters of Ahmadinejad on motorbikes and armed with sticks attacked backers of Mousavi as they marched in central Tehran, a Reuters witness said.

The witness said there were scuffles between the groups and that Ahmadinejad supporters used sticks to hit their opponents.

Riot police were also at the scene. [nLF581150] (Reporting by Hashem Kalantari; Writing by Dominic Evans; Editing by Louise Ireland)