Khamenei warns he will not give in

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The Independent Online

Iran's supreme leader crushed the fading hopes of election demonstrators today with a declaration that the government would not yield to them.

The wife of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi was defiant, saying protesters refused to buckle under a situation she compared to martial law.

Zahra Rahnavard said his followers had the constitutional right to protest and the government should not deal with them "as if martial law has been imposed in the streets."

She called for the release of all activists and others arrested at protests.

But Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has ordered protests to end, leaving president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's main rival Mr Mousavi with the choice of restraining followers or continuing to directly challenge the country's ultimate authority despite threats of escalating force.

"On the current situation, I was insisting and will insist on implementation of the law. That means, we will not go one step beyond the law," Khamenei said on state television. "For sure, neither the system nor the people will yield to pressure at any price." He used language that indicated he was referring to domestic pressures.

He told opposition supporters once again to halt their protests and accused the US, Britain and other foreign powers of being behind days of unprecedented street protests over the vote.

Meanwhile today a conservative candidate in the disputed presidential election said he was withdrawing his complaints about voting fraud for the sake of the country, state television reported.

The announcement by Mohsen Rezaie, a former commander of the elite Revolutionary Guards, moved the cleric-led government one step closer to a final declaration of victory for Ahmadinejad. State TV reported that Ahmadinejad would be sworn in sometime between July 26 and August 19.

State media have said that at least 17 people have been killed in post-election unrest, including 10 protesters shot during the largest demonstration on Saturday.

Mr Mousavi's supporters flooded the streets of Tehran and other cities after the presidential vote, massing by the hundreds of thousands in protests larger than any since Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution. Security forces initially stood by and permitted the demonstrations.

Amateur footage of a 27-year-old Neda Agha Soltan bleeding to death from a gunshot on a Tehran street unleashed outrage at home and abroad.

Despite the heavy security, a few Iranians apparently dared to venture onto the streets to pay tribute to her.

Smouldering embers of candles were visible on a street corner in central Tehran, where a vigil was held the night before for her.

Another opposition figure, reformist presidential candidate Mahdi Karroubi, called for a day of mourning for those killed in protests since the election.

Also, a Mousavi aide confirmed that police had raided offices of a newspaper owned by the candidate and detained 25 editorial employees.

Ali Reza Beheshti said the raid took place in central Tehran as editorial members were preparing to relaunch the newspaper, Kalemeh Sabz, or the Green Word. It had been absent from news-stands for more than a week.

Amnesty International said it was concerned that arrested demonstrators were at risk of torture or other ill treatment and urged Iranian authorities to give the detainees access to their families, lawyers and any medical treatment they might need.

"Anyone detained solely for their peaceful expression of their views regarding the outcome of the election should be released immediately and unconditionally," it said.