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Iran's Mousavi pledges to press reform efforts

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iranian opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi pledged to press ahead with efforts to reform the Islamic Republic despite a crackdown on protests after the disputed June 12 presidential poll, his website said Sunday.

Rights groups say thousands were detained after the vote, and more than 100 people, including former senior officials, remain in jail. Three have so far been sentenced to death.

“Our people are not rioters. Reform will continue as long as people’s demands are not met,” Mousavi’s Kaleme website quoted him as saying.

“Keeping these people in jail is meaningless. They should be released as soon as possible,” Mousavi said in a meeting with relatives of detained former deputy Foreign Minister Mohsen Aminzadeh, Kaleme said.

The election plunged Iran into its deepest internal crisis since the 1979 Islamic revolution. The opposition says more than 70 people were killed as Revolutionary Guards and Islamic militia put down the protests that erupted after the poll.

Officials say half that number were killed, and that included members of the security forces.

Mousavi, who came second in the election, and other moderates say the vote was rigged to secure the re-election of hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Iranian authorities deny the accusation.

“ERADICATE DEMOCRACY”

Islamic Iran’s Participation Front, the main reformist party which is close to moderate former president Mohammad Khatami, warned about “suppression of moderates.”

“What is happening today in Iran .... is a heinous measure to eradicate democracy in the country,” said a statement issued by the party, many of whose members have been detained since the vote.

“We call on all political and social parties, activists, students, lawyers and members of the civil society to resist obvious violations of the law before it is too late.”

The vote and unrest exposed deep divisions among the country’s ruling elite. Reformers believe the Islamic Republic must change in order to survive and meet the demands of its predominately youthful population.

Leading conservative lawmaker Ali Motahari blamed both Ahmadinejad and opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi for creating the rift in the country.

“Our friends should notice that Ahmadinejad had also a role in the recent discord,” Motahari told conservative activists, the Sarmayeh newspaper reported. “In order to protect and repair national unity, just as Mr Mousavi should confess his mistakes and apologize to the people, Mr Ahmadinejad should do the same. Otherwise this discord would remain.”

In a separate report in Vatan-e Emrouz newspaper, a relative and ally of former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani suggested Mousavi continued to enjoy the support of the influential cleric, who is also a rival of Ahmadinejad.

Rafsanjani challenged Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s authority in July by declaring the country in crisis and demanding an end to arrests of moderates after the vote.

But Rafsanjani has subsequently appeared to back down, urging Iranians last month to follow Khamenei’s guidelines and calling for national unity.

Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by David Stamp

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