- The Washington Times - Friday, June 26, 2009

Iranian authorities briefly arrested dozens of university professors who met with embattled opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, his Web site said Thursday, but he vowed to persevere with his election challenge despite the apparent attempt to isolate him from his supporters.

The declared winner of the June 12 balloting, hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, accused President Obama of meddling in Iran’s affairs.

Mr. Obama, along with other Western leaders, has ratcheted up his criticism of Iran’s clampdown on postelection protesters in recent days, which Tehran has described as foreign interference.

In the latest sign of government attempts to silence dissent, 70 professors were detained late Wednesday after meeting with Mr. Mousavi, who has alleged massive fraud in the balloting. They were among a group pushing for a more liberal form of government. All but four were released, Mr. Mousavi’s Web site said later. The four still in custody included Qorban Behzadiannejad, Mr. Mousavi’s former campaign manager.

Since Saturday, demonstrators challenging the election results have found themselves increasingly struggling under a blanket crackdown by government authorities.

State media reported Thursday that in addition to the 17 protesters killed in the recent unrest, eight members of the pro-government Basij militia were killed and dozens more wounded. The reports could not be independently verified.

A Paris-based associate and informal spokesman for Mr. Mousavi told The Washington Times Wednesday that nearly 250 people had been killed in postelection violence.

A Thursday march by another opposition figure, reformist presidential candidate Mahdi Karroubi, was postponed for lack of a permit, a day after club-wielding security forces dispersed a small group of protesters outside Iran’s parliament.

Mr. Mousavi’s Web site, Kalemeh, said he has applied for permission to hold a gathering to commemorate the “martyrs” of the postelection campaign. The statement did not elaborate or give a date.

Mr. Mousavi, who last led a massive protest rally a week ago, described his growing difficulties for the first time in a statement on the site.

He said authorities were increasingly isolating and vilifying him to try to get him to withdraw his election challenge, but Mr. Mousavi added he would not back down.

The final tally was 62.6 percent of the vote for Mr. Ahmadinejad and 33.75 percent for Mr. Mousavi, a lopsided victory in a race that was perceived to be much closer.

Mr. Mousavi’s comments came as Mr. Ahmadinejad reiterated complaints about foreign interference, singling out Mr. Obama and comparing him to former President George W. Bush, in a statement quoted by Iranian state television.

“We expect nothing from the British government and other European governments, whose records and backgrounds are known to everybody and who have no dignity, but I wonder why Mr. Obama, who has come with the slogan of change, has fallen into this trap, the same route that Mr. Bush took and experienced its ending,” Mr. Ahmadinejad said.

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