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Defiant Tehran protesters battle police

Associated Press - June 20, 2009 5:53 PM ET

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - Tight restrictions on outside reporting in Iran are making it difficult to determine precisely what's happening, but election protesters were back in the streets today, defying orders from Iran's supreme leader.

Witnesses say clashes along 1 of Tehran's main avenues today had far fewer demonstrators than recent mass rallies on behalf of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi (meer hoh-SAYN' moo-SAH'-vee). He's challenging the results of last week's presidential election, charging the state abused its powers. But he is apparently not seeking to topple the Islamic system.

Today, an estimated 3,000 marchers, some chanting "Death to dictatorship!," confronted a blockade of security forces. But they were kept away from a square where hundreds of thousands of Mousavi's supporters gathered last Monday.

Witnesses say police fired tear gas and water cannons, then chased down demonstrators with clubs, helped by volunteer militiamen on motorcycles.

A police commander is threatening an even more "serious confrontation" if protests continue. He says the demonstrations have become, quote, "exhausting, bothersome and intolerable."

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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