Rival claims over whereabouts of Mir Hossein Mousavi
Iran's state media reported tonight that the leader of the opposition had fled Tehran.
Mir Hossein Mousavi, defeated in hotly disputed elections in June, was said to have left the Iranian capital on a day marked by pro-government rallies at which crowds chanted "Death to Mousavi". Another of the leaders, Mahdi Karroubi, was also said to have fled.
Hossein Karoubi, however, the son of Mr Karoubi, said his father and Mr Mousavi were still in Tehran. He said: “My father and Mr Mousavi are in Tehran and IRNA’s report is baseless. They are still pursuing the people’s demands,”
The conflicting reports come three days after Mr Mousavi's nephew, Ali, was killed during a protest against the regime in which at least eight lost their lives.
He was said to have been shot in the chest. Opposition figures have claimed he was deliberately targeted and had received a number of death threats.
The regime has initiated a tactic of arresting relatives of opposition figures as it struggles to contain the so-called "green revolution". Those detained include the sister of the Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi and Mr Mousavi's brother-in-law.
Today's development came as Iran’s Supreme Leader acknowledged that the country’s Islamic rulers had lost some supporters in the turmoil following the disputed presidential elections.
The remarks by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei were his first public comments since the street clashes between opposition supporters and security forces on Sunday.
Mr Khamenei blamed the pro-reform opposition leaders for Iran’s problems. He said: “The reality in the society is that as some [supporters] dropped out, twice that number joined [us].”
Tens of thousands of hardline government supporters turned out for the state-sponsored rallies today, some of them calling for the execution of opposition leaders as Iran’s police chief threatened to show “no mercy" in crushing any new protests by the pro-reform movement.
Pro-government rallies were staged in Shiraz, Arak, Qom and Tehran, among other cities. Demonstrators at a rally in Tehran chanted “Rioter hypocrites must be executed" and held up a banner that read: “We sacrifice our blood for the Supreme Leader.”
The Government gave all civil servants and employees a day off to attend the rallies and organised buses to transport groups of schoolchildren and supporters from outlying rural areas to the protests.
Ahmad Alamolhoda, a hardline cleric, described opponents of Mr Khamenei as supporters of Satan.
“Enemies of the leader, according to the Quran, belong to the party of Satan,” Mr Alamolhoda told demonstrators in Tehran in comments broadcast on state television. “Our war in the world is war against the opponents of the rule of the Supreme Leader.”