TEHRAN — After days of relative quiet, the candidate defeated in Iran's disputed presidential election launched a broadside Thursday against the nation's leadership, an indication that the country's political rift is far from over.
In his statement, Mir-Hossein Mousavi issued a rare attack on supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, accusing him of not acting in the interests of the country, and said Iran had suffered a dramatic change for the worse.
Mousavi's forceful remarks appeared to show that the former prime minister is willing to risk his standing as a pillar of the Islamic Republic to take on Iran's powerful leadership. And they seemed aimed at securing his position at the head of a broad movement seeking change.
He also slammed state-controlled broadcasters, which have intensified a media blitz against him and his supporters with allegations that unrest over the June 12 election was instigated by Iran's international foes. And he pledged to pursue his quest to have President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's reelection annulled.
"I am not only prepared to respond to all these allegations but am ready to show how election fraudsters joined those who are truly behind the recent riots and shed the blood of people," he said in comments that appeared on his website and were distributed to supporters via e-mail. "I am not prepared to give up under the pressure of threats or personal interest."
At least some of his comments apparently were delivered Wednesday in a meeting with a group of 70 academics, who were later arrested and taken to an unknown location.
Khamenei said Wednesday that he would not reconsider the lopsided official results, which have spurred infighting among the Islamic Republic's elite and violence between demonstrators and pro-government forces.
Though the cleric is usually considered beyond public reproach, Mousavi seemed more than willing to confront Khamenei, who broke with tradition by openly taking sides in factional political rows.
"The leadership's support to the government under normal circumstances is helpful," Mousavi said. "However, if the leadership and the president are the same, it will not be in the interests of the country."
He also challenged the fact that Khamenei, while insisting that those who question the vote results should pursue legal means of recourse, had closed off most avenues for doing that and shuttered news outlets critical of the election.
Mousavi's Kalemeh Sabz newspaper was shut down and its staff detained Monday.
"While officials of the country continuously insist on the implementation of the law, and while those who complain against the wide-scale vote-rigging are accused of breaking the law, such actions against a newspaper that holds legal permits, its officials, editors, reporters, technicians and administrators, are not understandable unless we accept that lawfulness can go only far enough to restrict the complaints of protesters and nothing else," he said.
Hundreds have been arrested for allegedly taking part in or inciting the disturbances.
President Obama and Western allies have condemned the crackdown, further straining relations between Tehran and the West as the U.S. was seeking talks with Iran over its nuclear program.
Words of caution
Ahmadinejad, unusually silent since June 14, when his description of his opponents as "dirt" spurred a protest rally in central Tehran that drew hundreds of thousands of people, on Thursday cautioned Obama to avoid his predecessor's path.
"We do not expect anything from the British and the European countries' governments, which are not honorable and their history is known to the world," Ahmadinejad said in comments on state television. "But why has Mr. Obama been caught up in this trap while he has the slogan of change?"
Iran's power brokers have been huddling to discuss defusing the crisis. One of the Shiite Muslim establishment's most senior clerics weighed in on the controversy, in a sign of growing alarm among the country's religious leadership.
"Something must be done to ensure that there are no embers burning under the ashes, and that hostilities, antagonism and rivalries are transformed into amity and cooperation among all parties," Grand Ayatollah Nasser Makarem Shirazi, an influential cleric, said in a statement, the Press TV website said.
Mousavi and his backer Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former president, met with lawmakers Wednesday in an effort to quell the unrest, according to a Fars news agency interview with Alaeddin Boroujerdi, head of parliament's committee on national security and foreign policy.
"The lawmakers asked Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani to help solve the problems and he vowed support, and we hope that we would witness practical measures to be taken to end the current situation soon," the report quoted Boroujerdi as saying. "During the meeting, the governing board of the committee explained their expectations from Mr. Mousavi and he voiced his interest to help in solving the issues."