- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Overwhelmed by police and left with limited alternatives, Iranian demonstrators resorted Tuesday to more subtle ways of challenging the outcome of the presidential election: holding up posters, shouting from rooftops and turning on car headlights.

But the restrained expressions of discontent appeared to be scattered as Iran’s ruling clerics dealt the opposition new setbacks, making clear they have no intention of holding a new vote and setting up a special court to deal with hundreds of protesters arrested in more than a week of unrest.

Iran expelled two diplomats representing Britain - a nation it bitterly accuses of meddling and spying - and Britain in turn sent two Iranian envoys home.

Iran also accused U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of interfering in its domestic affairs after he demanded an immediate end to “arrests, threats and use of force.”

No rallies were reported Tuesday. Many in Tehran seemed hesitant to confront the feared Revolutionary Guard and members of the Basij militia, suggesting the harsh response wrought by hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to large and boisterous demonstrations may have weakened the opposition’s resolve.

Opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi said he was the true winner of the election. Iran’s electoral commission declared Mr. Ahmadinejad the winner by a landslide, ignoring Mr. Mousavi’s claims of widespread and systematic vote fraud. Mr. Mousavi has been out of sight in recent days, but a short message posted on his Web site asserted that “all the reports of violations in the elections will be published soon.”

State TV reported that Mr. Ahmadinejad would be sworn in sometime between July 26 and Aug. 19.

Another opposition figure, reformist presidential candidate Mahdi Karroubi, called for a day of mourning for at least 17 people killed in protests since the election. Some social-networking sites suggested that the mourning would take place Thursday.

Amid the crackdown, there was one small concession Tuesday from Ayatollah Khamenei, whose word is law in the Islamic republic. State TV said he agreed to extend by five days a deadline for registering complaints about the election.

Yet the regime made it clear that it stood by the results and there would be no rerun of the disputed vote.

State-run Press TV quoted Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, the spokesman for Iran’s top electoral body, the Guardian Council, as saying it found “no major fraud or breach in the election.”

On Monday, the council had acknowledged in a rare step that it found voting irregularities in 50 of 170 districts, including ballot counts that exceeded the number of eligible voters.

In a boost for the regime, Russia said Tuesday that it respects the outcome. Russia, a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, has longtime political and economic ties with Iran, where it is helping build a nuclear power plant in Bushehr.

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