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Iran Unrest Continues Amid Media Curbs

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called for unity today - a day that featured dueling demonstrations. Opponents and supporters of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rallied in Tehran. And they passed each in the streets on the way to their respective rallies. That raised fears of more violence after seven people were killed yesterday.

NORRIS: Meanwhile, the powerful Guardians Council said it's prepared to order a recount of some ballots. For more on this, we turn to NPR's Mike Shuster, who joins us from Tehran. Mike, first, tell us what you know about today's demonstrations.

MIKE SHUSTER: Well, I think that they were pretty large on both sides. And what's interesting to this - there was a kind of cat and mouse game of the demonstrators for and against President Ahmadinejad. Initially the demonstration was called yesterday during the massive turnout of the opposition and the opposition to Ahmadinejad. And they decided that they would gather in a square called Valiasr Square in central Tehran.

But then this morning, state TV kept exhorting supporters of President Ahmadinejad to go down there, as well. And there was a fear that this might be a plan to provoke confrontation. So, Mousavi, the challenger in the election, issued a statement telling his people and followers not to go down there. And they spontaneously on their own chose another spot in northern Tehran. They decided that they would gather at the headquarters of the state broadcasting system. And that's what they've done.

So, by the end of the afternoon we had two large demonstrations. As far as I know, there has not been a great deal of violence in either case. And both demonstrations are thought to have been quite large.

NORRIS: Now, we hear that the president's main challenger met today with the Guardian Council, what more can you tell us about the efforts to challenge the results of the vote last Friday?

SHUSTER: Well, Mr. Mousavi has essentially asked the Guardian Council for a new election, and they have already rejected that as a possibility. What they did, though, was offer a concession to the Mousavi camp. They said that they were - be willing to recount some ballots, either a random sampling or ballots from districts that where it is believed there were irregularities. And the Mousavi camp has rejected that. They essentially believe that there were irregularities everywhere across the country. So, at the moment, things are at a standstill between the Mousavi camp and the Guardian Council, and it's not clear how that's going be resolved.

NORRIS: Now, Mike, we understand that there are tough restrictions on the work of foreign journalists in Tehran right now - new restrictions - what more can you tell us?

SHUSTER: Very much so. In fact, we got - all of us who are foreign journalists got word today that our press cards have been revoked. We are confined to indoors, to our offices or hotels, and that we were told that we were not permitted - that it had become illegal for foreign journalists to cover demonstrations or be out in the streets.

So, in effect, the government has cut off the foreign press from being able to actually witness what's going on in the streets and report it accurately.

NORRIS: And how long are you able to in country?

SHUSTER: I have to leave tomorrow - my visa is up, and I've been given the word that I - there will be no extension and I have to leave the country.

NORRIS: Well, Mike, thank you very much.

SHUSTER: You're welcome, Michele.

NORRIS: That was Mike Shuster speaking to us from Tehran. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Mike Shuster
Mike Shuster is an award-winning diplomatic correspondent and roving foreign correspondent for NPR News. He is based at NPR West, in Culver City, CA. When not traveling outside the U.S., Shuster covers issues of nuclear non-proliferation and weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, and the Pacific Rim.