Thousands of supporters of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's regime, as well as protesters, flooded Tehran's streets Tuesday as the country's Guardian Council ordered a recount of some ballot boxes from the disputed presidential election.
The demonstrators gathered at Vali Asr Square for the state-organized rally, which demanded punishment for rioters in Monday's clashes, state television reported.
"This nation will protect and defend its revolution in any way," Gholam Ali Haddad Adel, a prominent legislator and Ahmadinejad supporter, told the crowd.
Waving flags and placards, the pro-government supporters gathered ahead of a protest held in the same square by reformist candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi's backers, who have made allegations of vote-rigging after Friday's election results showed the president winning by a 2-to-1 margin.
Iranian authorities have restricted all journalists working for foreign media from first-hand reporting on the streets in an attempt to block images and eyewitness accounts from the rallies.
"We are being told that we are supposed to stay in our offices or hotel rooms and report just on what the official media is reporting," Iason Fowden, a freelance reporter for the Washington Times told CBC News from Tehran.
The supporters of reformist candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi marched about the same time, but in a different location. The public show of support came despite a message posted on his website, in which Mousavi said he will not be at the rally and urged his supporters not to attend "to protect their lives."
Iranians must "not fall in the trap of street riots" and need to exercise "self-restraint," Mousavi told his supporters.
Seven people were shot dead on Monday as more than 100,000 opponents of Ahmadinejad defied government orders that banned a rally Monday and marched through Tehran to Azadi Square.
The protests lasted from about 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. local time.
Ahmadinejad was away, arriving in Russia on Tuesday to attend a regional security summit, after postponing the trip for one day due to the civil protests.
Meanwhile, U.S. President Barack Obama kept a calculated distance from the election outcome.
"It's not productive given the history of U.S./Iranian relations to be seen as meddling … the U.S. president meddling in Iranian elections," he said, adding that he wants to engage Iran rather than antagonize the country.
"There is a questioning of the kinds of antagonistic postures towards the international community that have taken place in the past and there are people who want to see greater openness and great debate."
Amid the growing violence — the worst in Tehran in 10 years — Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, spokesman for the 12-member Guardian Council, was quoted on state television Tuesday as saying recounts will be conducted at voting sites where candidates claim irregularities occurred.
The ballots will be recounted in the presence of the candidates' representatives, Kadkhodaei said.
It is not immediately clear which voting sites will be included in the recount.
Election results must be authorized by the council, which is composed of clerics closely allied with unelected supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. All three of Ahmadinejad's challengers in the election have alleged fraud after results showed the president winning by a landslide.
According to government officials, Ahmadinejad won 62.6 per cent of the vote, while Mousavi garnered 33.75 per cent in a contest that appeared to divide urban and rural voters.
Khamenei ordered the Guardian Council to investigate the results on Monday.
Following the announcement, representatives for the three candidates — Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi and Mohsen Rezaei — met with officials from the Guardian Council on Tuesday and demanded that a full investigation still be conducted.
Mousavi's representative, Ali Akbar Mohtashamipour, said the reformers still want to see the election held again.
Though the Guardian Council has ruled out reformist demands to annul the election, "It is possible that there may be some changes in the tally after the recount," Kadkhodaei said.
Mousavi has said he is not optimistic about the outcome of the investigation into the results.
"Many of its [Guardian Council] members during the election were not impartial and supported the government candidate," he wrote on his website, referring to Ahmadinejad.
Claims of voting irregularities went to the council after Ahmadinejad's upset victory in 2005, but there was no official word on the outcome of the inquiry, and the vote stood.