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Iran's Supreme Leader Lauds Turnout at Anniversary Rally

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Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has praised the massive turnout for  Thrusday's government-backed rally marking the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.  Government supporters and opposition protesters had poured into the streets to mark the day, which was punctuated by sporadic clashes between protesters and police.

Iranian state TV read a message by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei thanking what he described as "tens of millions" of Iranians for turning out to mark the anniversary of the Revolution. The Ayatollah added that the demonstration should be a "wake-up call to domestic enemies and deceived groups that claim to represent the people."

The Ayatollah saved his harshest words, however, for Western nations, branding them "arrogant and bullying states that employ futile efforts to subdue the Islamic nation."

A vast sea of people was shown on state TV Thursday at Iran's official ceremony in Tehran's Azadi or "freedom" square. Opposition demonstrators also turned out, albeit in smaller numbers, and were pushed to the fringes of the official rally by a large security presence. Scores of clashes between opposition activists and police were reported in many parts of Tehran.

Both the Iranian press and state TV denounced foreign media coverage of Thursday's government rally, complaining that well-known broadcasters like the BBC and Germany's Deutsch Velle were downplaying the large turnout of government supporters. Iranian TV, for the most part, did not report on opposition demonstrations.

Voice of America, the BBC and Deutsche Welle have condemned Iranian authorities for what they say is the illegal jamming of their broadcasts to Iran. The international broadcasters released a joint statement on Friday accusing Iran of jamming their shared satellite.  

Iranian senior cleric Hojjatoleslam Kazem Sediqi leads Friday prayer at Tehran University on 12 Feb 2010
Iranian senior cleric Hojjatoleslam Kazem Sediqi leads Friday prayer at Tehran University on 12 Feb 2010

Hojatoleslam Kazem Sidighi, who delivered the official Friday prayer sermon at Tehran University harped on the media theme, denouncing foreign "enemies" and the foreign media:

He says that the propaganda of (Western) enemies from their newpapers, tv stations and their spies have tried to create conflict among the people, but they have failed.

Sidighi went on to laud Thursday's pro-government rally, saying that it had brought despair to the foreign "agents" that he alleged were behind Iran's popular opposition movement:

He said  that (people's) presence (at Thursday's government rally) brought despair to our enemies and hope to the downtrodden, as well as a renewal of life to the revolution and religion, after periods of doubt.

"From crisis and heresy, spring new life and an intensity of religious belief," he said.

The pro-government Fars News Agency attempted to discredit opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, by claiming that he had tried to "flee Tehran" by plane, Thursday evening, but was "blocked by hundreds of citizens" who prevented him from doing so.

Mehdi Karroubi, the other top opposition leader, was injured Thursday, after government supporters beat him, fired paint-balls at his entourage and smashed the windshield of his car. One of his sons was arrested, along with hundreds of other protesters.

Opposition websites claimed that many pro-government supporters were brought to Tehran by bus at government expense, showing a satellite photo of central Tehran, where hundreds of buses were parked. Opposition activists also claim to have seen government supporters "brawling over free food" handed out to reward them for attending the rally.

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