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Iranian President Sends Anniversary Warning


Iran's president is warning opponents not to stray from the path laid out by the founder of the Islamic Republic.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad praised Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini on Friday, the 21st anniversary of his death.

Mr. Ahmadinejad told the crowd gathered at the ayatollah's shrine in south Tehran that anyone who rejects his teachings would be banished by the people. He also defended last year's disputed presidential election, calling the vote 100 percent free.

Earlier this week, 10 opposition groups formally asked Iranian authorities for permission to hold a rally on the June 12 anniversary of last year's polls.

Only pro-government events have been authorized since last year's violent protests. Iran has sentenced more than 80 people to prison terms of up to 15 years in connection with the protests. Several other activists face death sentences.

The Iranian president also used his speech to criticize Israel for its raid on Gaza-bound ships and call for the dismantling of the Jewish state.

Iranian officials had said two million people were expected to attend Friday's ceremony, where Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was expected to lead mass prayers.

Iranian media report the supreme leader has agreed to pardon or reduce the prison terms of 81 people who were being detained in connection to post-election violence.

Opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi ran in last year's presidential election, which returned Mr. Ahmadinejad to power. The opposition accuses Iran's president of rigging the election, and says Mr. Mousavi should have won.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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