Posted June. 20, 2009 09:46,
Irans theocracy is facing its biggest crisis since the 1979 Islamic revolution, as protests have rocked the country in the wake of the alleged fraud in the countrys latest presidential election.
With the protests entering their seventh day yesterday, Irans Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei came forward to urge "peace and tranquility."
The Associated Press and CNN said Khamenei led the weekly prayer service at Tehran University, urging his people to refrain from demonstrating.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also attended the nationally televised event, which marked Khameneis first appearance since the outcome of last weeks disputed election was announced. The cleric had led Friday prayers only two or three times before when there were national issues.
Khamenei is said to be planning to propose ways to resolve the political crisis. Ahmadinejad is alleged to have won through a rigged election.
CNN said Khamenei will bear the political burden of ignoring public calls for a new vote if he supports the incumbent president, while damaging the legitimacy of the Ahmadinejad administration. Khamenei could also risk his status as the supreme leader if he accepts election runner-up Mir Hossein Mousavis demand for a new election.
As protests have spread, Iranian authorities are trying to buy time by arresting protesters and reformist figures. They are also cracking down on domestic and foreign media and the Internet while taking conciliatory measures.
Authorities have proposed talks today among the three defeated candidates, including Mousavi, with the Guardian Council on the claims of 646 election violations by the candidates.
The New York Times said the proposed talks are intended to buy time for Khamenei to draw up measures for the crisis while protecting him from blame.
President Ahmadinejad, who had called the protesters football hooligans" and "dirt and dust, tried to soothe public sentiment Thursday by saying his comments referred to rioters committing incendiarism or attacking citizens.
Hundreds of thousands of people gathered Thursday at a mourning march in Tehran for slain protestors after Mousavi urged his supporters to attend. The Times quoted an Iranian official as saying some three million people are estimated to have appeared at rallies nationwide.
Wearing green for Mousavi and black for mourning, the protesters held candles in their hands and held peaceful rallies, according to foreign media reports. Mousavi also attended in a black suit.