(NSI News Source Info) TEHRAN, Iran - July 18, 2009: A leading hardline Iranian newspaper slammed ex-president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani on Saturday for casting doubt on the outcome of last month's presidential election a month after supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei endorsed it. Protesters attend a rally in Tehran July 17, 2009 in this image obtained from Gooya News. In apparent defiance of Iran's supreme leader, a powerful cleric declared his country in crisis after a disputed poll, and tens of thousands of protesters used Friday prayers to stage the biggest show of dissent for weeks. Clashes erupted in central Tehran between police and followers of opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi, who still contests official results that showed hardline President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad had been re-elected by a wide margin. The Kayhan daily, whose editor is appointed by Khamenei, accused Rafsanjani of backing lawbreaking through his implicit support for the demonstrators who have clashed repeatedly with riot police and militiamen since the June 12 vote. "Mr. Rafsanjani says a great number of people cast doubt on the election. But he doesn't say why," the newspaper said. "If people have a suspicion, it is about... what's behind the riots," it added, in an allusion to accusations by regime hardliners that foreign hands have been behind the wave of protests that saw thousands take to the streets again on Friday after Rafsanjani's sermon at the main weekly Muslim prayers. Kayhan accused the former president of "repeating illogical and baseless claims" of fraud in the official election results which saw hardline incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad returned to power for a second four-year term. Rafsanjani had told worshippers: "A large group of... people in the country say they have doubts" about the election result. "We should work to address these doubts." With reformist Mohammad Khatami, Rafsanjani is one of two former presidents who supported Ahmadinejad's main challenger, moderate former premier Mir Hossein Mousavi, in the election. Mousavi, who was at Tehran university to hear Rafsanjani's sermon, has described the vote as a "shameful fraud." Rafsanjani's continued questioning of the election outcome weeks after the supreme leader endorsed it in a sermon at the same Tehran prayers on June 19 was a mark of the huge rift opened up within the Islamic regime. But Kayhan took issue with the former president's description of the situation as a "crisis." "Mr Hashemi knows what crisis means... but plot is the best word to describe the current situation," the paper said. Rafsanjani, who remains powerful as the head of Iran's main political arbitration body and the chairman of the council which oversees the work of the supreme leader, had called in his sermon for all sides to forge a consensus on how to resolve the "crisis" over the election. "If we can provide a consensus, then this sermon will be the beginning of a change in the future. We will leave behind this problem which we can say is a crisis," he said. But a prominent cleric who is a member of the electoral watchdog, the Guardians Council, which upheld the poll result, rebuked Rafsanjani for his focus on popular legitimacy. "The legitimacy of the government is given by God," the ISNA news agency quoted Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi as saying. "Acceptance by the people doesn't bring legitimacy to (an Islamic) government. Mr Hashemi Rafsanjani ignored this important Islamic point and talked in both parts of his sermon yesterday as if governments are assigned only by the people." Thousands of supporters of Ahmadinejad's defeated challengers defied a ban on unauthorised public gatherings to demonstrate around Tehran University after Rafsanjani's sermon. They were confronted by riot police and militia, who detained several people, including leading lawyer and women's rights campaigner, Shadi Sadr, witnesses said. Foreign media were banned from covering the prayers, something that Rafsanjani took issue with in his sermon. Kayhan accused Rafsanjani of backing the protests, which regime hardliners say have left at least 20 people dead and many scores wounded. The former president "openly backed lawbreakers," the newspaper charged. "He should have condemned the killing of innocent people, the looting of their belongings and the arson against public property. But he did not."
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