Bringing the feared violence from the domino riots across the Middle East into brutal reality, Iranian protesters clashed with police on the streets, with allegedly killed one person.
Meanwhile, outraged Iranian officials accused Western countries Tuesday of orchestrating the latest anti-government protests.
Opposition leaders Mir-Hussein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi had asked for an official permission to demonstrate Monday and support anti-government protests in Egypt and Tunisia, but their petitions were flatly rejected by the government, according to the Xinhua News Agency.
Their supporters still took to the streets Monday in Tehran and clashed with the police in running street battles.
Iran’s Mehr News Agency quoted deputy police chief Ahmad Reza Radan as saying Tuesday that a bystander was killed and others were wounded.
Some Western media reports cited thousands of Iranians taking part in the protest, with authorities deploying hundreds of police to contain and neutralize them.
However, Mohammad Ali Ziaei, a press officer at the Iran’s embassy in Beijing, said the Western reports of the protest were aimed at destabilizing Iran.
“Their hyped reports are groundless. The scale of the anti-government protest Monday was very small, far from the scale reported by some Western media. We believe that those demonstrators were incited by some Western powers, which are hostile toward Iran,” Ziaei told the Global Times.
Things seemed to return to normal Tuesday in Tehran, with a Global Times reporter not noticing any protests in the capital, with banks and shops conducting business as usual.
On Monday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed her support for the protests, saying Washington wishes the opposition and the “brave people in the streets across cities in Iran” the same opportunity as their Egyptian counterparts.
The EU locked step with the US, with foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton urging Iran to “refrain from using force against protesters and to respect the right to demonstrate peacefully,” AFP reported.
The Iranian government immediately dismissed these calls.
“The comments made by US officials these days emanate from confusion and distraction due to the changes in the region,” foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said Tuesday, AFP said.
The changes have inflicted “a blow to the interest of the dominating powers” and the backers of Israel, Mehmanparast said, adding that what the people in the region wanted was for “big powers to stop interfering in their affairs,” as well as the severing of their dependence on the US, Israel and their allies.
He added that the ouster of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, a long-time ally of the US, was a great achievement for Egyptians.
Li Weijian, director of the Research Center of West Asian and African Studies at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, told the Global Times that Washington was willing to support protesters in Iran, in contrast to its ambiguous approach to the unrest in Egypt.
“The US is apparently excited about the protests in Tehran,” Li said. “However, what happened Monday was more likely the continuance of confrontations between Iranian political forces, rather than any knock-on effect from Egypt.
“Unlike Egypt, which was ruled by Mubarak for 30 years, Iran has elected leaders regularly. This is not the first time such protests have occurred. Monday’s one stood out principally due to its timing.”
Also Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned the West that it was “counter-productive” to encourage the spread of revolutions in the Middle East.
“I think that we need to encourage all parties to agree between each other,” AFP quoted Lavrov as saying. “I think that it is counter-productive to impose democracy in a specific pattern.”
Separately, Iranian lawmakers fought the opposition back by chanting to put rival leaders on trial.
More than 220 lawmakers battered Mousavi and Karroubi for supporting and initiating the protest. They also criticized former reformist president Mohammad Khatami for openly backing the opposition movement, AFP reported.
At an open session of parliament Tuesday, legislators shouted, “Mousavi and Karroubi should be executed! Death to Mousavi, Karroubi and Khatami!”
Yu Miao and Song Shengxia contributed to this story
From Global Times