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Fri 19 Jun 2009 12:38 PM

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Iran's Khamenei demands halt to election protests

'Today the Iranian nation needs calm,' Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says in his address.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Friday demanded an end to street protests that have shaken the country since a disputed presidential election a week ago and said any bloodshed would be their leaders' fault.

He defended Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the rightful winner of the presidential vote and denied any possibility that it had been rigged, as Ahmadinejad's opponents have asserted.

"If there is any bloodshed, leaders of the protests will be held directly responsible," Khamenei declared in his first address to the nation since the upheaval began.

"The result of the election comes from the ballot box, not from the street," the white-bearded cleric told huge crowds thronging Tehran University and surrounding streets for Friday prayers. "Today the Iranian nation needs calm."

He said any election complaints should be raised through legal channels. "I will not succumb to illegal innovation," he said, in an apparent reference to the street protests, which have few precedents in the Islamic Republic's 30-year history.

Mousavi has called for annulment of the election result, which showed Ahmadinejad the winner with nearly 63 percent of the vote to 34 percent for his closest challenger.

Iran's top legislative body, the Guardian Council, is considering complaints by the three losing candidates, but has said only that it will recount some disputed ballot boxes.

"It's a wrong impression that by using street protests as a pressure tool, they can compel officials to accept their illegal demands. This would be the start of a dictatorship," Khamenei said.

He said the enemies of Iran, the world's fifth biggest oil exporter, were targeting the legitimacy of the Islamic establishment by disputing the outcome of the election.

The supreme leader, Iran's ultimate authority, in theory stands above the factional fray, but Khamenei acknowledged that his views on foreign and domestic policy were closer to those of Ahmadinejad than to those of the hardline president's foes.

He attacked what he called interference by foreign powers which had questioned the result of the election.

"American officials' remarks about human rights and limitations on people are not acceptable because they have no idea about human rights after what they have done in Afghanistan and Iraq and other parts of the world. We do not need advice on human rights from them," he said.

Many European countries and international human rights organisations have criticised the election and its aftermath, but U.S. President Barack Obama's administration has muted its comments to keep the door ajar for possible dialogue.

People chanting slogans and holding posters of Khamenei, Ahmadinejad and the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei, the father of the 1979 Islamic revolution, packed streets outside the university.

At least one police helicopter hovered overhead.

Khamenei's speech followed six days of protests by Mousavi supporters. On Thursday, tens of thousands of black-clad marchers bore candles to mourn those killed in earlier rallies.

Iranian state media have reported seven or eight people killed in protests since the election results were published on June 13. Scores of reformists have been arrested and authorities have cracked down on both foreign and domestic media.

"Ahmadinejad has been our president for four years, and during this time he has always told the truth to our people," said Javid Abbasirad, 48, outside Tehran university gates.

At the same venue, hundreds of university students had demonstrated in support of Mousavi on Sunday, hurling stones at riot police trying to disperse protesters outside the gates.

Some in the crowd for Friday prayers were draped in Iranian flags. Others held placards with anti-Western slogans.

"Don't let the history of Iran be written with the pen of foreigners," one flyer said, reflecting official Iranian anger at international criticism of the post-election violence. (Reuters)

CT 10 years ago

I've been watching with interest the events unfolding in Iran today and never before in all my days of watching television news on all the various news channels have I witnessed the one sidedness of what is being broadcast in favour of Mousavi. Yes I believe that outside powers that be, misjudged the will of the majority of the people that voted. Why has there been no mentioned of the irregularities that supposedly took place mentioned yet. Not one word. The majority of what we see is happening in Tehran. Tehran does not make up the whole of Iran. The one thing that bothers me is that even before the votes were finally counted Mousavi came out proclaiming victory. How could he have known the results when the voting process is carried out in a secret ballot. When a person votes it's done in secret so up until that moment when he writes on his ballot, he is the only person who knows what is written on that ballot paper. He may at that point change the way he or she wishes to vote. Mousavi may have thought he had the votes but that's for the result to show and it showed that he did not. Truth will always prevail and for those who live by it will succeed but those who don't will fail and fail they will.

Robert Williamson 10 years ago

Iran's regime is just another form of Middle East dictatorship. Hard to think of "any" middle eastern country where the government allows people express themselves without their livelihood to be seriously threatened. Let's not pretend that GCC is any exception to this.

wellwisher 10 years ago

The Iranians should have been celeberating the landslide victory of Ahmedenijad but thanks to the foreigners this celeberation was stolen from them. They intervened the internal affairs through proxy in the form of Mousavi who should have solemnly accepted the defeat to save the lives who lost their lives in the illegetimate protests. Now the Iranians have stood in one voice behind the venerable Ayotallah to denounce the foreign involvement in their internal affairs and a clear message to Mousavi not to be stooge of the foreigners. Congratulations to all Iranians for the uphold of democracy and peace

R.copes 10 years ago

Change only comes from the people, not the government, stand together and stand strong.

Charlie 10 years ago

What happen in Iran is the start for "Time to Change" for What? Time to change for the present will not go on. The young generation only wanted to live happily with their neighbors. Basically, they don't want to be engulf by the "Wind of War" that the present administration wanted so much to glorify. The young generation know it will be a big lost to Iran if ever War may happen. That is why they want to change and change for the best they will.