Police disperse massed protesters after ex-president Rafsanjani’s Tehran sermon

The former Iranian president, Hashemi Rafsanjani, broke his month-long silence on the violent street protests which erupted over allegations of fraud after Mahmoud Ahmadienjad’s re-election on June 12.
In a tensely-awaited sermon at Tehran University, Friday, July 17, he called for the release of the hundreds of arrested protesters.
The prominent cleric said large numbers of Iranians still doubted the election result and something had to be done to allay those doubts. “We should allow [people in prisons] to return to their families,” he said.
Opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi made his first public appearance in the front row of the audience.
“We are all members of a family,” Rafsanjani said. “I hope with this sermon we can pass through this period of hardships that can be called a crisis.”
Security forces used tear gas and batons to disperse the tens of thousands gathered in the streets of Tehran after the prayers, some chanting support for Mousavi, demanding Ahmadinejad’s resignation and shouting “Down with Russia!” Others backed Ahmadinejad with shouts of “Down with America!”
Witnesses reported 15 arrests.
The Tehran University Friday sermon is a central religious-political event attended by up to a million people and usually broadcast live by state TV. Rafsanjani’s sermon was not aired indicating how jittery the heads of the regime were about his message and its impact on the streets.
Also Friday, Tehran appointed a new envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna after Gholam Reza Aghazadeh resigned three weeks ago, soon after the election. He is Ali Akbar Salehi, a former envoy. No official reason was given for the resignation although Aghazadeh is said to be close to Rafsanjani, president Ahmadinejad’s foremost rival.

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