Activists and relatives held as Iran accuses Britain of backing protesters
Guardian / Robert Tait

Iran's Islamic authorities signalled a ferocious crackdown against the opposition movement today by linking it to "foreign enemies", including Britain, and arresting a fresh wave of leading activists and their relatives.

Using extraordinarily belligerent language, the foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, threatened Britain with "a slap in the mouth" after the ambassador to Tehran, Simon Gass, was summoned to hear accusations of British involvement in mass protests during Sunday's religious Ashura ceremony.

Iran says eight people died in clashes between protesters and security forces, although the death toll could be far higher. The official narrative of a western-backed opposition was reinforced by the president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who described Sunday's events as a "nauseating masquerade" backed by Americans and "Zionists", according to the official news agency, Irna.

State television claimed that "tens of thousands" of government supporters had staged rallies across Iran in support of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Opposition websites carried reports of fresh unrest, including in the southern city of Shiraz, where plainclothed agents and basij militia forces were said to have attacked Ghoba mosque, where a liberal cleric, Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Dastgheib, was speaking. They also reportedly smashed the windows of his house and attacked a theological school.

Rights groups voiced fear that detainees would be tortured in an attemp... >>>

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