Reports from Iran indicate that the Supreme National Security Council has ordered a complete check-up of the jet which is on standby to fly Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei and his family to Russia should the situation in Iran spiral out of control. The order, to the Pasdaran Revolutionary Guard Corps, was dated on Sunday, 27 December. A fax containing the order was sent to Dutch-based Shahrzad News.
In Iran, tens of thousands of pro-government supporters took to the streets on Tuesday, calling for leaders of the opposition to be punished. They say the opposition is to blame for the protests during the Shiite festival of Ashura in which eight people are reported to have been killed by riot police.
Opposition supporters launched the demonstrations following the death of Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri a critic of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The protests were crushed by the authorities and the opposition is now calling for the government to apologise for the excessive violence used by the police.
President Ahmadinejad says the United States, Great Britain and Israel are behind the protests. The British ambassador in Tehran has been summoned by the Iranian authorities. The Revolutionary Guard says the foreign media and Iran's enemies are waging a psychological war aimed at bringing down the legitimate Iranian government.
Some Iranian MPs are calling for demonstrators to be sentenced to death. Various opposition figures have been arrested including the sister of Nobel peace prize laureate Schirin Ebadi.
photo: Ali Khamenei (left) en Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (right) (EPA)