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Ahmadinejad hails controversial victory, despite protests

Street clashes between security forces and supporters of challenger Mousavi picked up after dark on Sunday after President Ahmadinejad addressed thousands of his supporters in Tehran.

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A number of top reformist allies of Mousavi were detained Saturday night, including the brother of former President Mohamad Khatami, who was briefly held. Police denied that Mousavi was under house arrest.

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The declared Ahmadinejad landslide prompted rioting and clashes on Saturday until the early hours of the morning. The activity left a swath of destruction from central to north Tehran along Vali Asr Avenue and in numerous districts, both east and west.

A drive along those routes at 3 a.m. Sunday found protesters mostly gone, but roads covered with shards of broken glass from state banks and bus stops, the acrid smell of still burning tires and garbage dumpsters, and the charred remains of motorcycles of security forces who had been caught and beaten by the protestors.

Riot police dressed in camouflage suits and form-fitted chest, knee, and shin guards stood in tight clusters at the Parkway intersection to north Tehran, wreathed in smoke even as municipal workers began to sweep away the mess.

Passing two men in un-tucked beige shirts on motorbikes, a driver complained about the basiji, an ideological militia force, which was out in numbers with uniformed police for two days straight, and has been, along with Iran's Revolutionary Guards, a key beneficiary of Ahmadinejad's rule.

"They are basiji," said the driver. "Mr. Ahmadinejad pays them a lot of money."

Iranians spoke of security forces of all types – official and vigilante – beating Mousavi supporters, taking license plates, or breaking the rear-view mirrors off cars that honked their horns for Mousavi.

On one side street next to Mousavi's shut-down campaign headquarters, smears of dried blood marked a wall and the sidewalk, where the injured person had bled profusely.

Firm crackdown

By the time Ahmadinejad addressed tens of thousands of supporters at dusk on Sunday at Vali Asr Square – one focal point of the pre-election Mousavi street parties, and since then a center of the street clashes – many of the windows at state banks had been repaired, the shards of glass swept away, the evidence of unrest erased.

Police sealed off streets in all directions, and the outer perimeter was patrolled by motorized riot squads. Even as vehicles organized by the presidency to carry photographers to the rally passed by, a phalanx of these racing stormtroopers – riding two to a motorbike, with the passenger carrying a baton to beat those trying to run away – charged a group of youths, chasing them down in the street.

Another group of basiji bikes, driven by men with beige shirts who had stuck an assortment of batons and truncheons into their handlebars for ready access, stopped even the presidential truck and accused journalists of sneaking photographs of them.

Picture perfect Ahmadinejad rally

Inside the security cordon, the rally was picture perfect. Supporters of the hardline president took complete control of this contested area early in the evening. Waving Iranian flags and pictures of Ahmadinejad and the Islamic Republic's revolutionary icons, the crowd crushed into the restraining bars, some shedding tears at the presence of their hero.

Most women were dressed in conservative black, but there were a number of Western-looking women as well, who most often support Mousavi and his more liberal social policies.

Ahmadinejad told the crowd that he had just asked the Guardian Council, which can adjudicate electoral issues, if they had received any complaints about the conduct of the vote, and they told him no.

"[Some people] say the vote is disrupted, there has been a fraud," he said. "Where are the irregularities in the election?"

Earlier in the day, Moussavi announced that he had formally requested the Guardian Council to "cancel the results of the election."

State television showed footage of the rally throughout the evening with heroic inspirational music. Images of Ahmadinejad looking leader-like turned the large event into a massive show of support that was beamed nationwide.

The images gave an image of calm adoration, and of a huge turnout every bit as "epic" as Iran's high voter turnout last Friday was. After the rally, loyalists fanned out in every direction, easily dominating the streets in the area.

But within hours, Mousavi supporters were back in numbers, honking their horns, and chanting "Alahu Akbar!"