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Unrest continues in Iran

The third day of protests in Tehran, as news agencies come under pressure.

A man with a cane gestures towards a woman on the ground during protests in central Tehran June 14, 2009. Defeated candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi demanded Sunday that Iran's presidential election be annulled and urged more protests, while tens of thousands of people hailed the victory of the hardline Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. (Stringer/REUTERS)

TEHRAN — The third day of protests over Friday's presidential election dawned with heavy clouds rolling over Tehran and premonitions that protests over alleged vote-rigging in the Iranian elections were about to breathe their last.

As with previous days, my morning was punctuated by telephone calls by friends wanting to know the latest on the opposition rally by presidential contender Mir-Hossein Mousavi that was scheduled to take place in central Tehran's Revolution Square. (According to news reports, the rally was postponed after Iran's Interior Ministry said the rally would be illegal. Hundreds of people reportedly rallied despite the ban.)

Other reports continued to trickle in. Just as worrisome as news that paramilitaries had entered Tehran University's student dormitories and beaten up students (recalling the conclusion of the July 1999 student riots), was news that foreign journalists were being harassed and asked to leave the country. "Their permits are no longer valid, even if still unexpired," an Iranian official told me.

A spokesman for the Swedish network SVT, Geronimo Akerlund, was reported as saying that their reporter, Lena Petersson, had been asked to "leave Iran as soon as possible because the elections are over." European Union embassy officials said that they couldn't protect journalists who are arrested by the Iranian authorities, bringing to mind the case of Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi, whose American nationality was of no help when she was recently arrested and charged with spying here.

Dubai-based news network Al Arabiyya said the station's correspondent in Tehran was given a verbal order from Iranian authorities that the station's office would be closed for one week, with no reason offered. The station is popular among ethnic Arabs in Iran's Khuzestan province.

The place where the Mousavi rally was scheduled to take place was particularly significant because Tehranis gathered there for anti-Shah demonstrations during the 1978 to 1979 revolution. Since then, the regime has used Revolution Square as a staging area for annual revolution rallies that begin there and end on Freedom (Azadi) Square.