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Iran's Supreme Leader Issues Stern Warning to Protesters


Iran's supreme leader has accused the pro-reform opposition of trying to undermine the Islamic system and insulting the Islamic Republic's founder.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Sunday the opposition's relentless protests were disrespectful. State television had broadcast footage of what it said were opposition supporters destroying photos of both Ayatollah Khamenei and the Islamic Republic's founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, during massive anti-government protests on December 7.

Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard called Sunday for punishment of the demonstrators who tore up or burned photos of the late Ayatollah Khomeini. The guard is the country's most powerful military force.

On Saturday, hard-line Iranian clerics rallied in cities across the country to denounce pro-reform students who staged the violent anti-government rallies.

In the holy city of Qom, cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami accused the opposition of trying to destroy Iran's Islamic system of government.

Government supporters at the rallies chanted "death to opponents of the supreme leader."

Defeated presidential candidate and opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi was quoted on Saturday as saying his supporters would not allow any insult against the supreme leader.

Supporters of Mousavi and other reformist leaders held mass protests earlier this year after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad secured a second term in a disputed June election. The post-election demonstrations were the largest in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The opposition accuses Mr. Ahmadinejad of stealing the vote.

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

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