Conflict Escalates on Streets of Iran

Unrest, Conflicts and WarTehran (Iran)ElectionsHeads of StateDemonstrationRiotsDeath

TEHRAN, Iran -- Witnesses said police fired tear gas andwater cannons at thousands of protesters who rallied in TehranSaturday in open defiance of Iran's clerical government, sharplyescalating the most serious internal conflict since the 1979Islamic Revolution.

Eyewitnesses described fierce clashes near Revolution Square incentral Tehran after some 3,000 protesters chanted "Death to thedictator!" and "Death to dictatorship!" Police responded withtear gas and water cannons, the witnesses said.

English-language state TV said a blast at the Tehran shrine ofAyatollah Ruhollah Khomeini had killed one persona and wounded twobut the report could not be independently confirmed due togovernment restrictions on independent reporting.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned opposition leaderson Friday to end street protests or be held responsible for any"bloodshed and chaos" to come.

Eyewitnesses contacted by The Associated Press said thousands ofpolice and plainclothes militia members filled the streets Saturdayto prevent rallies. Fire trucks took up positions in RevolutionSquare and riot police surrounded Tehran University, the site ofrecent clashes between protesters and security forces, one witnesssaid.

Web sites run by supporters of opposition leader Mir HosseinMousavi said he planned to post a message, but there was nostatement by the time of the planned street protests at 4 p.m.(7:30 a.m. EDT, 1130 GMT). Some pro-reform Web sites called forpeople to take to the streets

Tehran Province Police Chief Ahmad Reza Radan said earlier inthe day "police forces will crack down on any gathering or protestrally which are being planned by some people."

English-language state TV said the country's highest nationalsecurity body had ordered security forces to deal with thesituation. It did not elaborate.

The government statements were the most explicit warnings yet offorce against protesters who gathered in massive rallies last weekto demand the government cancel and rerun elections that ended witha declaration of overwhelming victory for hardline PresidentMahmoud Ahmadinejad. Mousavi says he won but Ahmadinejad stole theelection through widespread fraud.

Khamenei sided firmly with Ahmadinejad Friday, saying the resultreflected popular will and ordering opposition leaders to endstreet protests or face the consequences.

The statement effectively closed the door to Mousavi's demandfor a new election, ratcheting up the possibility of a bloodyconfrontation.

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