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Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday called opposition rallies a foreign-backed "nauseating masquerade," the official IRNA news agency reported.

"The Iranian nation has seen a lot of such masquerade. A Zionist [Israeli] and American ordered masquerade," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying by IRNA.

Tens of thousands of government supporters rallied on Tuesday, state media said, and a reformist party called on Iran's rulers to apologize to the nation two days after at least nine people were killed in anti-government protests.

The rallies called for the punishment of opposition leaders for fomenting unrest after June's disputed presidential poll which was won by hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, state media reported.

The elite Revolutionary Guards accused the foreign media of joining hands with the opposition to harm the Islamic state and the British ambassador to Tehran was summoned by the Iranian government to be accused of interference" in state matters.

"If Britain does not stop talking nonsense it will get a slap in the mouth," Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said. The British government said their envoy would respond "robustly" to any criticism.

The establishment intensified a crackdown on the reform movement on Sunday by rounding up leading moderates to try to end street protests after the deadly weekend clashes erupted during the Shi'ite Muslim religious ritual of Ashura.

At least 20 opposition figures have been arrested since Sunday, including three senior advisers to opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi, his brother-in-law and a sister of Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi, opposition websites reported. Ebadi confirmed her sister's arrest.

At least nine Iranian demonstrators, including the nephew of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, were killed in dissident clashes with security forces across Iran, according to a pro-reformist Web site.

"Ali Mousavi, 20, was killed in clashes on Sunday noon and his body was still kept in a Tehran hospital," said parleman news.

An Iranian opposition website said at least four protesters were killed in the northwestern city of Tabriz. Earlier in the day, the Web site said four protesters were killed in a rally in central Tehran while a fifth was reported in the evening.

Iranian police arrested about 300 people during the anti-government protests in Tehran, state broadcaster IRIB quoted a senior police official as saying.

Political turmoil has entered a new phase in Iran with bloody face-offs and arrests, with security forces calling on authorities to deal "firmly" with opposition leaders.

"Trying to overthrow the system will reach nowhere ... designers of the unrest will soon pay the cost of their insolence," the Revolutionary Guards said in a statement. "The opposition, which has joined hands with the foreign media, is backed by foreign enemies."