TEHRAN, June 17, 2009 (AFP) - Iran's opposition movement called for a new public rally in Tehran on Wednesday as pressure was building on the Islamic regime over President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's fiercely-contested re-election.
Grappling with the biggest wave of public anger since the 1979 Islamic revolution, Iran has lashed out at enemy "plots", hauling in foreign ambassadors, rounding up scores of reformists and clamping down on the media.
World governments voiced increasing alarm about the situation in Iran, but US President Barack Obama, while raising "deep concerns" over the election, said Washington would not meddle in the affairs of its arch-foe.
Supporters of defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, who has accused the regime of blatant vote-rigging, said they have called another rally in Tehran at 1330 GMT, despite a ban on such gatherings.
Reformists sources and the press said on Wednesday that several more prominent political activists and journalists had been arrested by security forces in Tehran and other cities.
Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei announced on Tuesday that he may order a partial recount of votes cast in Friday"s presidential election, which returned Ahmadinejad to power with a landslide according to official results.
"I am asking the Guardians Council and the interior ministry to examine the said issues so there is no doubt left," Khamenei was quoted by state television as saying.
"If the examination of the problems require recounting of some ballot boxes, it should be definitely done in the presence of the representatives of candiates so that everybody is assured."
The election has triggered days of opposition protests across in Tehran and other cities, exposing deep divisions in the oil-rich Shiite Muslim nation of 71 million people.
In the latest demonstrations on Tuesday, supporters of Ahmadinejad and Mousavi staged rival rallies, each calling out hundreds of thousands of people on to the streets of Tehran, state media said.
Iranian newspapers published pictures on Wednesday of the demonstrations, which the foreign media were banned from covering.
"We are not troublemakers," said one banner shown in a photograph at the opposition rally, where many demonstrators wore the green of Mousavi's campaign colour.
Seven people were reported killed in violence in Tehran on Monday, with footage broadcast on foreign television stations showing dramatic and chaotic scenes of violence, police beating protestors and blazing tyres and motorbikes.
Obama, who has turned his back on the policy of predecessor George W. Bush and called for dialogue with Iran after three decades of severed ties, took a cautious line on Tuesday.
He said he had "deep concerns" about the election but added: "It is not productive, given the history of US-Iranian relations, to be seen as meddling - the US president meddling in Iranian elections."
Obama said the United States would still need to pursue "tough diplomacy" towards Iran over its nuclear drive, saying there appeared to be little difference between the policies of Ahmadinejad and Mousavi.
"Either way we were going to be dealing with an Iranian regime that has historically been hostile to the United States, that has caused some problems in the neighbourhood and has been pursuing nuclear weapons," Obama told CNBC.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, in the strongest remarks so far by a Western leader, said there was election "fraud".
Hundreds of protesters also took to the streets of European cities on Tuesday in support of Mousavi, who was premier of Iran in the post-revolution era during its war with Iraq in the 1980s.
Iran has responded to international criticism of the vote and the subsequent crackdown on opposition protestors by summoning EU envoys and lashing out at foreign meddling.
"Enemies, particularly the US, Britain, and Israel (are) interfering in Iran's internal affairs, plotting against the government and giving media support to enemy groups, rioters and social and political hooligans who are trying to fuel chaos in the Islamic Republic," said the organisers of Tuesday's pro-regime rally.
The authorities have warned they would nip in the bud any "velvet revolution" and have rounded up scores of people in Tehran and other cities, including prominent reformists close to former president Mohammad Khatami.
Iran has also clamped down on foreign media, banning it from covering demonstrations.
"Hereby we inform all foreign media representatives to avoid any news coverage which has not been coordinated or authorised by this bureau," a culture ministry official said.
In effect, foreign journalists were being confined to their bureaus and barred from the streets for what a government source said was designed for their own protection.
Some phone, texting and Internet services have also been disrupted, and protestors have been turning to Twitter to spread word of the dramatic events.
A US official said Washington asked Twitter to delay maintenance plans so Iranians could still communicate when other media were banned.