Pro-reform Iranian presidential challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi posted a statement on his Web site urging his supporters to resist a "governance of lie and dictatorship" after state media indicated that incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had apparently been reelected after receiving almost 65% of the vote with over four-fifths of the ballots counted.
There were no immediate reports of serious clashes or mass protests, and the next step by Mousavi's backers were unclear, but a post-election statement by Mousavi on his website said he refused to "surrender to this manipulation."
"The outcome of what we've seen from the performance of officials ... is nothing but shaking the pillars of the Islamic Republic of Iran sacred system and governance of lie and dictatorship." He warned "people won't respect those who take power through fraud" and called the decision to announce Ahmadinejad winner of the elction was a "treason to the votes of the people."
Mousavi appealed directly to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to intervene and stop what he said were violations of the law. He claimed some polling stations were closed early with people still waiting to vote, that voters were prevented from casting ballots and that his observers were expelled from some counting sites.
It was even unclear how many Iranians were even aware of Mousavi's claims of fraud. Communications disruptions began in the later hours of voting Friday — suggesting an information clampdown. State television and radio only broadcast the Interior Ministry's vote count and not Mousavi's midnight press conference.
Nationwide, the text messaging system remained down Saturday and several pro-Mousavi Web sites were blocked or difficult to access. Text messaging is frequently used by many Iranians — especially young Mousavi supporters — to spread election news.
Lending credence to Mousavi's claims of unfair play, human rights groups also reported that the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence had raided and shut down the offices of the Mousavi campaign, as well as that of another challenger, Mehdi Karroubi.
It is unclear what future actions Mousavi backers can take, since the political chief of the powerful Revolutionary Guard cautioned Wednesday it would crush any "revolution" against the Islamic regime by Mousavi's "green movement" — the signature color of his campaign.
'No difference between candidates'
Meanwhile, in Israel, ministers appeared unsurprised by Ahmadinejad's win, but emphasized that it should serve as an alert to the international community.
The international community must step up efforts to deal with Iranian terror and nuclear aspirations "immediately," given the results in Iran, Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon said Saturday.
"In Israel, we had no illusions, because we knew there was no essential difference between candidates on the topics of terror and nuclear development. If there had been even a spark of hope for a change in Iran, the reelection of Ahmadinejad demonstrated once more the increasing threat from Iran," he said.
The results of Iranian presidential elections "are exploding in the face of those who thought that Iran was built for true dialogue with the free world, including a cessation of its nuclear program," added Regional Cooperation Minister Silvan Shalom.
"The election of (incumbent President Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad send a clear message to the world, that the current policy has won widespread support and thus, will continue. The United States and the free world must reassess their policy towards Iran regarding its nuclear program," he said.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, on the other hand, immediately called to congratulate Ahmadinejad. According to the Iranian president's website, Chavez called his victory "a win for free nations" of the world.
Roni Sofer, Dudi Cohen and Reuters contributed to this report