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Paper: Mousavi to form party

BEIRUT, Lebanon – The top figure of Iran’s nascent political reform movement, presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, will launch a political party to pursue his goals, a reformist newspaper reported Sunday.

Iranian officials, meanwhile, released a European journalist while the lawyer of an imprisoned employee of the British Embassy in Tehran, Iran, said he was confident his client’s case would soon be resolved.

Embattled President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reiterated calls for a live “debate” with U.S. President Barack Obama late Saturday in a possible sign Iran was seeking to ease diplomatic strains created over his recent disputed re-election victory and its violent aftermath.

Iran continues a wide-ranging crackdown on opposition figures and reformists following the June election, on Sunday blocking the Web site of a small reformist clerical bloc in the holy city of Qom. The group sharply criticized the recent vote and subsequent recount effort by the Guardian Council, whose members are appointed directly and indirectly by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who supports Ahmadinejad.

The spokesman for Iran’s foreign ministry Sunday announced the release of freelance journalist Iason Athanasiadis, a citizen of Britain and Greece, who was arrested as he tried to leave the country through Tehran’s international airport several weeks ago, state television reported.

The lawyer for British Embassy employee Hossein Rassam refuted reports that his client had been formally charged, saying he was optimistic the Iranian national would be released in the coming days.

Rassam, 44, is the top political analyst at Britain’s mission in Iran, where he headed a staff of eight or nine who were all arrested on suspicion of promoting or taking part in weeks of clashes between supporters of Mousavi and government security forces.

Even as Mousavi’s supporters described plans for a political party in the daily newspaper Ettemad Melli, a campaign against the movement continued. An editorial to appear in today’s editions of Sobh Sadegh, a newspaper close to the Revolutionary Guard, contends that the Guardian Council should bar “liars and rabble-rousers who were running for president” from ever taking part in electoral politics.

Authorities say that many people swept up in the post-election unrest have been released from prison. The pro-government Basiji militia said it had released all but 100 of 1,000 people it had arrested.

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