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Senior Iranian Pro-Government Cleric Urges More Executions of Regime Opponents

Hardline cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, giving Tehran's Friday prayer sermon, urged Iran's judiciary to execute more opponents of the Islamic Republic "to please God." The call comes a day after two men were executed for being "enemies of God" and protesting to topple the regime.

Pro-government cleric Ahmad Jannati lashed out at opposition demonstrators, once again, during his Friday prayer sermon, calling on Iran's judiciary to "execute more of them ... to please God." Two young opponents of the government were executed Friday, charged, among other things, with being "enemies of God."

As Iran prepares to celebrate the 31st anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, from February 1 to Feb. 11, the Ayatollah insists that new anti-government demonstrations must be met with an iron fist. Opposition protests on Dec. 27, he says, were the result of government "weakness."

"Whatever [the government] suffered," he said, 'was due to our weakness' and the unwillingness of the judiciary to "execute protesters [from the very beginning] after the [large] July 9 protest. If [we] show weakness now," he warned judiciary chief Sadegh Larijani, "the future will be worse. There can be no room for mercy."

Ayatollah Jannati, as head of Iran's powerful Guardian Council, was the man who certified the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, after charges of vote-rigging in Iran's disputed June 12 presidential election.

The crowds of hard-line government supporters at the Tehran University prayer hall cheered Ayatollah Jannati, chanting "death to the hypocrites," a term which has gradually been extended to mean all opposition supporters.

The Ayatollah's remarks follow a particularly blistering attack by opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi against the government, in Thursday's Financial Times newspaper, arguing that President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad will probably resign, before serving out his full four year term.

Karroubi also lashed out at Jannati, personally, in remarks on his Sahum News website, saying that he "betrayed the Islamic Revolution….by certifying the results of [President] Ahmadinejad's re-election," despite what he called "massive fraud."

Scott Lucas of the University of Birmingham in Britain who is behind the popular blog "Enduring America," says that he thinks Jannati's remarks indicate that the government is trying to scare protesters from taking to the streets during February celebrations of the Islamic Revolution:

"They've made this massive set of arrests between the 27th of December [Ashoura protests] and now, where they've tried to break specific well-known elements of the opposition, such as the Freedom Movement and the Committee on Human Rights Reporters, but this movement is now organized in cells, so you can't break the movement by going after the older, established organizations, and no-one on Ashoura, Moussavi, Karroubi, Khatami, none of them actually called the folks out. That was a demonstration at grassroots level," said Scott Lucas.

Lucas says that he thinks the government is frightened by the prospect of "huge, new anti-government protests" in the coming days, and that Friday's executions and Jannati's threat of more executions are an "attempt to intimidate the (opposition) movement out of existence."