June 17, 2009

Iran's Revolutionary Guard Warns Online Media

TEHRAN, Iran – Iran's opposition announced a third day of street demonstrations Wednesday as the country's most powerful military force warned of a crackdown against online media in its first pronouncement on the deepening election crisis.

Blogs and Web sites such as Facebook and Twitter have been vital conduits for Iranians to inform the world about protests over Friday's disputed election. Pro-reform candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi and his supporters accuse the government of rigging the election to declare hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the winner.

The Web became more essential after the government barred foreign media Tuesday from leaving their offices to report on demonstrations on the streets of Tehran.

The Revolutionary Guard, an elite military force answering to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei , said through the state news service that Iranian Web sites and bloggers must remove any materials that "create tension" or face legal action.

The Guards are a separate military with enormous domestic influence and control of Iran's most important defense programs. They are one of the key sources of power for a cleric-led establishment that has been pushed by the crisis into an extraordinary public defense of the Islamic ruling system.

The unelected supreme leader made a highly unusual appeal Tuesday in response to tensions, telling Iranians that all citizens should hold fast to their belief in the system despite disagreements over the election.

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