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Iran leader issues stern warning to opposition
Fri Sep 11, 2009 9:44am EDT
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By Zahra Hosseinian and Reza Derakhshi
TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran's supreme leader told the opposition on Friday they would face a harsh response if they drew their "swords" against the ruling establishment.
The warning from Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, delivered at Friday prayers three months after a disputed poll that led to widespread unrest, was a clear message he would not tolerate any threat to Iran's clerical system of government.
"Resisting the system and taking out the sword against the system will be followed by a harsh response," he told worshippers in a sermon broadcast live on state television.
"If somebody stands against the basis of the (Islamic) system and violates people's security, the system is forced to stand against it," he said.
But in his lengthy sermon Khamenei did not address proposals that Tehran on Wednesday delivered to world powers involved in efforts to resolve the issue diplomatically, but reiterated that the Islamic state should not back down on its "nuclear rights."
"It is a sign of deviation to give up one's rights, nuclear rights or non-nuclear rights, instead of insisting on them," he said.
But Khamenei, who has final say on all matters of state, added criticism and differences among officials were acceptable.
It was Khamenei's first Friday prayers sermon since the June poll, when he endorsed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's re-election, blamed the opposition for bloodshed and accused Western powers of interfering in Iran's affairs.
The election and its turbulent aftermath plunged Iran into its deepest internal crisis since the 1979 Islamic revolution, exposing deepening divisions within its ruling elites and adding to tension with the West.
The opposition said 70 people were killed in the unrest while officials put the death toll at up to 36 people.
Rights groups say thousands of people, including senior pro-reform figures, were arrested after the presidential poll. Most have been freed but more than 200 remain in jail, according to the opposition.
This week the authorities detained three pro-reform figures allied to opposition leader and defeated candidate Mirhossein Mousavi. They also closed down the offices of reformist cleric Mehdi Karoubi, another presidential contender in June.
Mousavi and Karoubi say the poll was rigged to secure Ahmadinejad's re-election. Officials reject the charge.
The hardline president shored up his position last week when parliament approved most of his new ministers after almost three months of political turmoil in the major oil exporter.
NUCLEAR DISPUTE GOES TO U.N. Continued...
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