New Year's Eve Clashes in Streets of Iran

Pro-government militia called Basij spread out through the streets of Tehran on New Year's Eve today to discourage planned protests by opponents of the regime, clashing at times with peaceful marchers.

"These are the last efforts of a dying state in denial," one protester told ABC News after he had seen the city filled with security forces.

Haft-e-tir Square, a downtown Tehran shopping and transport hub, was full of people who gathered in discreet protest early in the day. Surrounded by government militia, the protesters were somewhat muted but the situation was tense, an eyewitness told ABC News.

A pro-green Web site, Jaras, reported that the situation had escalated and police had fired tear gas.

"Supporters of opposition leader (Mirhossein) Mousavi clashed with police in Haft-e-Tir Square and police fired two rounds of tear gas to disperse the protesters," the Jaras web site said.

A similar report on Twitter said the protesters had been attacked by security forces and the demonstrators retreated to back alleys.

This could not be independently verified as media access to these protests and others has been banned.

There are also unconfirmed reports that several metro stations have been shut down to hinder the protesters' movement.

Police helicopters circled the city all day and on-line reports claimed that soldiers were being brought to the city from surrounding areas prompting fears that Tehran could soon be put under the control of the Revolutionary Guard.

Officials denied the report that troops, which have not previously been used for crowd control, had been called in.

Due to the regime's clampdown on the media it remains difficult to sort through the conflicting claims by the government and the Green Movement as protesters have been called.

The general mood of the city has been one of tension in recent weeks, according to reports leaking of Iran on the Web and by Twitter. There has been an increase in security forces, both in uniform and in plain clothes, stopping people to check their IDs.

Women are stopped and their purses checked and vehicles with two or three young adults in them are frequently stopped and the occupants told to get out to be frisked, according to Twitter accounts from Tehran.

Iran Protesters Accuse Government of Disinformation

Government opponents also say that the state media is deliberately putting out misinformation.

Iran's official news agency carried a report Wednesday that the leaders of the Green Movement, Mir Hussein Mousavi and Mahdi Karoubi had fled Tehran, fearing for their safety.

"Two of those who played a major role in igniting tension in Iran following the vote, fled Tehran and went to a northern province because they were scared of people, who demanded their punishment," IRNA reported, without naming the two.

The report was immediately denied by Karoubi's son. "My father and Mr. Mousavi are in Tehran and IRNA's report is baseless. They are still pursuing the people's demands," Hossein Karoubi told moderate Parlemannews.

ABC News sources also indicated that both leaders never left Tehran and opponents of the government are dismissing this report as state propaganda designed to denigrate the two who are still contesting President Ahmadinejad's legitimacy as president after this summer's disputed elections.

An earlier rumor that Mousavi's wife, Zahra Rahnavard, had been arrested was also dismissed.

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