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Opposition Leader: Iran 'Plagued by Despotism'

One of Iran's top opposition leaders has renewed his attacks on the government, saying the Islamic republic is, in his words, "plagued with despotism."

Mehdi Karroubi said in comments posted on his Web site Tuesday that the country's elections "have become meaningless." He repeated claims that the reelection of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last June was not based on the popular vote.

Karroubi's comments follow claims by his wife on Monday that pro-government demonstrators vandalized their apartment building in Tehran. They also came as Iranian officials are increasing security in the capital ahead of a Tuesday evening "fire festival" that precedes the Iranian New Year.

Eyewitnesses in Tehran say there is a heavy police presence in the streets, and police have been warning members of the opposition not to use the event to stage more anti-government demonstrations.

Iranian state television also has been showing pictures of young people burned by fire or in accidents with firecrackers in order to discourage young people from participating.

The origins of the Zoroastrian "fire festival" date to Iran's pre-Islamic past, prompting criticism from some leaders.

On Monday, Mehdi Karroubi's Web site ( quoted his wife, Fatemah, as claiming that about 50 people gathered outside the apartment block Sunday, attacking it and demanding that Karroubi be put on trial or executed.

Photographs on various Web sites showed walls of the building covered with graffiti calling for Karroubi and opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi to be put to death.

Last month, Karroubi called for a referendum to end the post-election turmoil in the country and strip the constitutional watchdog known as the Guardian Council of its powers.

The Guardian Council ensures all legislation agrees with its interpretation of Islamic law and the Iranian constitution.

Karroubi ran against Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the June election. The opposition disputed the results of that election, which returned Mr. Ahmadinejad to power and sparked mass anti-government protests.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.