TEHRAN -- Two rival forces are competing for the upper hand in Iran's postelection dispute: public demonstrations in the streets and waves of quiet arrests of dozens of prominent reform and opposition figures.
The Iranian government, meanwhile, accused the U.S. for the first time of interfering in the postelection dispute. Iran protested to the Swiss ambassador, who represents U.S. affairs in Iran because the two nations have no diplomatic ties. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said that President Barack Obama stands by his defense of principles such as the right of people to demonstrate.
On Wednesday, hundreds of thousands of people packed a major throughway in central Tehran for a fifth straight day of protests to support reformist presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, who has accused the government of rigging the election in favor of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
At the same time, security agents rounded up three more prominent figures affiliated with Mr. Mousavi. The country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has told Mr. Mousavi to pursue his demands through the electoral system and urged Iranians to unite behind their Islamic government.
Mr. Mousavi through his Web site called for a mass rally Thursday to protest election results and violence against his followers, even as the country's military force warned Iranian Web sites and bloggers to remove objectionable material.
"It's a test of wills for the country's political future," said Saeed Abitaleb, a former conservative member of parliament who shifted sides and supported Mr. Mousavi. "They can't arrest hundreds of thousands of people off the streets, but they can show them who is in charge through these arrests."
At the same time, Iran's Interior Ministry ordered a probe into an attack late Sunday night on Tehran University students in a dormitory reported to have left several students dead and many more injured or arrested. Students say it was carried out by Islamic militia and police.
Iran's English-language Press TV said the ministry urged Tehran's governor's office to identify those involved. Iran's influential speaker of parliament, Ali Larijani, condemned the attack.
Students' Web sites reported mass resignations by Tehran University professors outraged over the incident. One medical student said he and his roommate blocked their door with furniture and hid in the closet when they heard the militia's motorcycles approaching. He heard the militia breaking down doors, and then screams of anguish as students were dragged from their beds and beaten violently.
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