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Iran's Supreme Leader Warns Protesters



Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has called for an end to street protests, saying there was a "definitive victory" in the disputed presidential election that has triggered the worst unrest in Iran in three decades.

In his first public remarks after days of demonstrations, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the outcome must be decided at the ballot box, not on the street and that political leaders would be blamed for any violence.

Demonstrations have taken place since the June 12 election after candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi called for annulment of the election. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared the winner with nearly 63 percent of the vote. Thirty-four percent went to Mr. Mousavi.

Support for Ahmadinejad

Addressing huge crowds at Tehran University, the ayatollah voiced support for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, saying the president's views on foreign affairs and social issues were close to his.

Ayatollah Khamenei said official results showing a landslide for President Ahmadinejad were beyond question.

He says the election was "a political earthquake to your enemies, and was a real celebration to your friends all around the world, an historic celebration."

Mr. Ahmadinejad was among the thousands of people who packed the campus and surrounding streets, punctuating the ayatollah's speech with chants.

The crowd shook its fists in the air, repeatedly, during the speech, chanting "death to America" and "death to Britain."

Harsh words for Obama

Ayatollah Khamenei also reserved harsh words for U.S. President Barack Obama, saying that despite his overture to Iran, he was "encouraging the Iranian people to revolt."

He said Western leaders were hyprocrites in negotiating with Iran, before trying to overthrow the Islamic Republic through street violence and complained that the western media and arrogant powers were "agitating the people" under the guise of calls for human rights.

Khamenei says he blames the Western media and officials for stirring unrest by exploiting internal political differences over the election results.

Who won power struggle?

Analyst Meir Javedanfar of the MEEPAS center in Tel Aviv says that after a week of unrest following the controversial Iranian presidential election, he thinks that Ayatollah Khamenei and President Ahmedinejad have come out on top in the power struggle with the reformist Mr. Mousavi.

"After a week of controversy and power struggle, it seems that Ayatollah Khamenei has come out the victor for now," he noted, "he's got bigger power inside the system. He's warning the other side that they should not take the demonstrations too far. However, I think this could backfire in the future, because he needs to make concessions to both sides and by giving too many points to one side it could create imbalance in the system."

The Guardian Council - Iran's main electoral authority - has invited Mr. Mousavi and two other defeated candidates to discuss their objections to the election results Saturday.



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