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Top Iran Hardline Paper Calls for Mousavi Treason Trial

Iran's conservative Kayhan daily newspaper is calling opposition leader and defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi a "U.S. agent" and demanding that he be tried for allegedly collaborating with foreign governments to incite post-election violence.

The editorial printed Saturday in Kayhan, asks if Mr. Mousavi's actions during several weeks of post-election unrest were in response to instructions by American authorities.

Written by a close ally of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, the article also called for Mr. Mousavi and for Iran's former president and leading reformist, Mohammad Khatami, to be tried for treason.

Mr. Khatami has accused Iran's leaders of a "coup" against democracy for upholding the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

A wave of attacks against alleged foreign involvement in Iran's internal crisis is being waged by hardliners in an apparent bid to legitimize the re-election of incumbent Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, despite multiple charges of fraud.

Another top hardliner, Ayatollah Jannati, spoke of so-called Western involvement in post-election unrest during prayers at Tehran University Friday, saying that local British Embassy staff would be put on trial for inciting violence.

Iran arrested 9 members of the British Embassy staff, one week ago, for allegedly fomenting unrest, releasing all but two, amid condemnation by the European Union.

British Foreign Secretary David Milliband has been urging the 27-member EU to jointly withdraw their ambassadors from Tehran to protest the arrest of its embassy personnel.

Mehrdad Khonsari of the London-based Center for Arab and Iranian Studies says that the onslaught of charges by Iranian hardliners of outside involvement is aimed at legitimizing their crackdown against opposition protests.

"Their strategy seems to be to try and externalize this problem that they have been suffering inside the country, thereby giving a form of legitimacy to their behavior in suppressing people inside and arresting people and wanting to put people on trial," said Khonsari. "If you want to, for example, accuse Mousavi of being a U.S. agent, you have to establish a connection between what's going on and outside elements, and their behavior the past two or three weeks has always carried a consistent theme of trying to suggest to people inside the country that these activities are being organized by people outside Iran, and that gives them a free hand to put down externally-inspired uprisings and arrest people charged as being agents of outsiders."

Incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad addressed a technology conference in Tehran, Saturday, accused the Western media of "trying to turn the Iranian election into an international affair and turn public attention away from the global economic crisis."

The head of the Iranian parliament foreign affairs committee, Alaeddin Borojurdi, while visiting Tokyo, also said that Iranian officials would not meet their Western counterparts to discuss the Afghan crisis, "due to their meddling in Iran's internal affairs."