TEHRAN, Iran - Tens of thousands of Iranians backing the country's rulers rallied yesterday in central Tehran, calling for the death of antigovernment demonstrators and opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi.
Clad in black and holding portraits of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the government supporters chanted slogans for the Islamic Republic and against its opponents. "Death to Mousavi!" they chanted, and "Death to opponents of velayet faqih" - a reference to Iran's theocratic political system.
The gathering came as Mousavi attended a solemn burial ceremony for his nephew, who was shot to death during weekend riots.
The rally was in response to a weekend of large-scale antigovernment unrest coinciding with the religious holiday of Ashoura. Iranian officials condemned the earlier protest as part of a foreign-backed plot to weaken Iran.
"I advise Mr. Obama and some European leaders to learn a lesson from the fate of their predecessors and do not think that by creating scenes and kicking up ballyhoos they can disturb the united ranks of the Iranian nation," President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said to reporters along the sidelines of a cabinet meeting, according to the pro-government Fars News Agency.
Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi said that Marxists and exiled opposition groups were behind the weekend's unrest and that some had already been arrested.
"We are convinced that the unrest that took place on Ashoura was planned by anti-revolutionaries and these agents used the opportunity to reveal their true identity," Moslehi said during the cabinet meeting, according to the news Web site Tabnak.
Still, rowdy protests broke out yesterday on campuses in the Tehran suburb of Shahriar and in the eastern city of Mashhad, where armed militiamen allegedly attacked students, injuring at least 10, according to reformist Web sites and video footage posted online.
Iran's leaders have long been masters of gathering huge crowds for pro-government demonstrations. Amid a crackdown on opposition supporters and dissidents, authorities encouraged employees of government offices and state-owned businesses to attend the 3 p.m. rally.
Public schools were told to dispatch students to the event. The manager of a state-owned Tehran cement plant flatly ordered staff to attend, one employee said. Authorities established free shuttle buses and waived subway entrance fees to draw crowds.
After promoting the protest for days on television and radio, authorities broadcast the large demonstration in Tehran's Enghelab Square live on state TV, which also reported official rallies in other cities.
Conservative Iranian groups protested what they called the "defiling of Ashoura" by antigovernment demonstrators.
A speaker addressing the crowd said that "the Great Satan" - meaning the United States - was behind all the unrest in Iran, and the crowd chanted slogans of "Death to America," "Death to Israel," and "Death to Britain."
Authorities sent a note to newspapers ordering them to place coverage of the day's rally on today's front pages, according to an Iranian reporter.
The official rally contrasted starkly with opposition protests, which are often met with tear gas and the swinging truncheons of security forces. Instead, amateur videotape posted online showed organizers handing yesterday's demonstrators juice.
Meanwhile, Mousavi attended the funeral of his nephew Ali Habibi-Mousavi, 43. Opposition Web sites said he was buried amid heavy security in Tehran's main cemetery. His body had been taken from the morgue and returned to the family on the condition the funeral was held out of the public eye, opposition news sources said.
A group of 10 Swedish citizens accused by Iran of terrorism and other crimes demanded yesterday that their names be removed from Interpol's most-wanted list, and they criticized the international police agency for honoring politically motivated requests.
The men on the list are Kurds whom Sweden recognized as political refugees about 20 years ago. They are active critics of the Iranian regime, and their names were put on the Interpol list at Iran's request.
Arezo Julie Jacobsson,
a spokeswoman for the men, said they might take legal action
against Interpol for violating international asylum policies.
Interpol, in an e-mail statement, said it would be "inappropriate" to comment on the details of individual cases but pointed out it was not its role to assess the evidence of cases.
- Associated Press