JANUARY 1 2010 21:02h

Iran's Mousavi ready to die for opposition cause




Iranian opposition leader Mousavi said that he was ready to sacrifice his life in his campaign to have the disputed election overturned.

TEHRAN, January 1, 2010 (AFP) - Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi said on Friday that he was ready to sacrifice his life in his campaign to have the disputed June re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad overturned.

"I am not unwilling to become a martyr like those who made that sacrifice after the election for their rightful national and religious demands," Mousavi said in his first statement on his Kaleme.org website since deadly clashes on Sunday.

"My blood is no redder than theirs," he added.

Mousavi's nephew, Ali, was among at least eight people who died during Sunday's opposition protests during Shiite Muslim rituals for Ashura.

The opposition head's website carried a call from "political prisoners" in Tehran's Evin jail for the public to hold a memorial on Sunday to mourn those who died during the protests.

Opposition website Rahesabz reported new protests in central Tehran on Thursday and sporadic clashes with security forces a day after the regime brought hundreds of thousands of its own supporters onto the streets of major cities in a massive show of strength.

Mousavi called on Ahmadinejad's government to halt its crackdown against his supporters, which saw hundreds of people arrested during the demonstrations.

He urged the government "to take responsibility for the problems it has created in the country... release political prisoners... and recognise people's right to lawful assembly."

The former prime minister rejected demands from hardliners for him to renounce his accusations of fraud in the June election in which he was Ahmadinejad's main challenger.

"I clearly and explicitly say that the order to execute, kill or jail (former parliament speaker and pro-reform presidential candidate Mehdi) Karroubi, Mousavi and people like us will not solve anything.

"Supposedly you calmed things down through your arrests, violence, threats and closure of newspapers and other media. What appreciation does that show for the change in public opinion about the Islamic republic?"

Mousavi rejected charges by Ahmadinejad and other officials that he and his supporters were "lackeys" of Iran's Western foes.

"We are neither Americans nor Britons. We have sent no congratulations cards to the leaders of major powers," he said, in mocking allusion to a card the Iranian president sent to Barack Obama on his election as US president in 2008.

"We are loyal to the constitution," he added, dismissing accusations by hardliners that the opposition's protests against Ahmadinejad's re-election have turned into a campaign to topple the Islamic regime.

"We want an honest and compassionate government that considers diversity of opinion and the popular vote to be opportunities, not threats.

"We consider invasion of people's privacy, interrogations, ransackings, newspaper closures and restrictions on what is published to be violations of the constitution."

Mousavi proposed that to resolve the crisis over the election "the government announce it will be directly accountable before the nation, parliament and the judiciary and not demand unconditional support regardless of its shortcomings or weaknesses."

The fourth candidate in the June election -- former Revolutionary Guards chief Mohsen Rezai -- hailed Mousavi's comments as a basis for a compromise between the opposition and regime hardliners, and wrote to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei asking him to intervene to broker a solution.

"Mr Mir Hossein's retreat from rejection of Mr Ahmadinejad's government and his constructive proposal that parliament and the judiciary act based on their legal duty to make the government accountable... was late but can be a new start to unite the protesters with the rest," the ISNA news agency quoted Rezai as saying in the letter.

"A message from you or advice through a speech can strengthen... the new movement which has started for unity and forgiveness," Rezai said.

But hardline cleric Ahmad Khatami slammed Mousavi's statement as a new provocation.

"There is no crisis in the country and you are creating a crisis. Stop it!" the ISNA news agency quoted him as saying.

Mousavi's website denied reports by state media that he had fled the capital Tehran for the northern province of Mazandaran.

"Mir Hossein Mousavi is at his own home in one of the side-alleys of Pasteur Avenue (in south Tehran) like before and has not left Tehran at all in the past few days," his Kaleme.org website said.