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Iranian Cleric Demands Apology From Opposition Leaders

The leader of Tehran's Friday prayer sermon, hardline Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati threw down the gauntlet to Iran's opposition leaders, demanding that they apologize for inciting unrest in the country. Meanwhile, Iran's foreign minister accused foreign powers of contributing to violence.

It was a biting, accusatory Friday prayer sermon by hardline Ayatollah Ahmed Jannati, and his finger was pointed squarely at opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi and his allies, whom he accused of responsibility for weeks of unrest and violence:

He tells Mousavi and ally Mehdi Karroubi that they must apologize to the people, and let them know that they are sorry for all those who were killed because of their treason. If the unrest had not taken place and you had not incited it, he insists, no one from either side would have been killed.

Ayatollah Jannati also took a veiled swipe at former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who is supporting Mousavi and the opposition movement, claiming that a majority of members of the Assembly of Experts, which Rafsanjani heads, oppose him.

He went on to decry opposition claims that the June 12 presidential poll, officially won by incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, was fraudulent. "If this election was not valid," he claimed, "all other elections of the past 30 years were not valid, because they were all held the same way."

Iran's Foreign Minister Manuchehr Motaki, for his part, lashed out at "foreign powers," claiming that they bore a responsibility for the recent wave of violence in Iran:

He charges that the countries which intervened in Iran's internal affairs are accomplices in the crimes and murders that have been committed and must answer for them.

Embattled President Ahmadinejad, who is at the center of Iran's political row, pointedly left the capital Tehran, to deliver an address in the city of Mashhad, blasting the West, and insisting that he was on good terms with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei:

He insists that his relation with Ayatollah Khamenei is above the framework of politics based on love and faith and resembling the relation between a father and son. Ill-wishers who claim the contrary, he argues, will take their wishes to the grave, because their path is blocked by devils.

Mr. Ahmedinejad created a new controversy, this past week, by insisting on the appointment of his brother-in-law as first vice president, against the wishes of Ayatollah Khamenei and other hardline supporters.

Iranian TV announced, Thursday, that Mr. Ahmedinejad is due to be inaugurated for a second term on August 5th, despite the tempest that continues to rage in the country over the legitimacy of his re-election.