AFP - Iran's hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called for the first time on Friday for the punishment of opposition leaders over the street unrest unleashed by his disputed re-election in June.
Ahmadinejad also renewed the Islamic republic's allegations that Britain sought to overthrow the regime.
"Serious confrontation should take place with the leaders and main instigators of the incidents. Those who provoked, organised and implemented the enemy's line should be confronted firmly," Ahmadinejad said in a speech at weekly Friday prayers in Tehran, the first since the start of the holy month of Ramadan.
It is the first time Ahmadinejad has made such a call against his political opponents, who have charged his re-election was fraudulent.
"Those from lower ranks and the ones who were deceived should be treated with Islamic compassion," Ahmadinejad said, drawing chants of "riot leaders should be executed" from the worshippers who, raising their fists in air, also shouted, "Death to America! Death to Israel!
Iran faced its worst crisis since the establishment of the Islamic republic in 1979 when hundreds of thousands took to the streets in week-long protests against the June 12 poll results during which about 30 people -- and by opposition accounts 69 -- were killed.
About 4,000 people were initially arrested and scores of senior reformists, journalists and opposition supporters have been put on trial on accusations of seeking a "soft" overthrow of the regime with foreign backing, mainly the United States and Britain.
Opposition leaders including presidential candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi have condemned the "show trials", refused to recognise Ahmadinejad's presidency and vowed to continue protests.
"Today, more determined than ever, we should insist on change, which is the rightful demand of the reformist movement," former president and a key supporter of Iranian opposition groups, Mohammad Khatami, was quoted as saying by the ILNA news agency.
"Despite all pressures to force reformists and fair and wise people out, we should remain on the scene."
Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appeared to soften his tone on the opposition on Wednesday saying that he had no proof the leaders of the post-election violence were backed by foreign states.
The ayatollah, however, branded Britain as the "most evil" of Iran's enemies in a keynote speech after the election and the ties between the two countries worsened after Iran arrested nine local British embassy staffers and put one on trial for spying.
Ahmadinejad claimed on Friday that the "foreign minister of the old coloniser" -- David Miliband -- had told the foreign minister of a country friendly to Iran that "this time we are doing a precisely-planned job and want to finish the Islamic republic."
He did not identify the second country but again accused global powers of having "overtly interfered in Iran's affairs which has ruined their reputation in world arena."
"I am telling you (world powers) to be angry and die of this anger," the hardliner added in his address at Tehran university.
The Islamic republic has faced further embarrassment by allegations that detained protesters have been raped and tortured.
Iran shut down Kahrizak prison south of Tehran after at least two detainees died of injuries reportedly sustained in custody.
Iran jailed several prison guards and vowed to prosecute them but the hardline president on Friday pointed an accusing finger at Iran's foreign enemies and the "overthrowing movement" over attacks on university dormitories and prisoner abuse.
"What happened in the dorms and detention centres was part of the enemy's scenario carried out by the dependants of the overthrowing movement," Ahmadinejad charged.
"Revolutionary forces are innocent of such shameful acts. Our basijis were beaten up in the street as they were protecting people's rights," he said of Iran's hardline Islamist militia which played a key role in stifling street protests.
Iran's parliament starts voting on Ahmadinejad's new cabinet from Sunday amid speculation that several of his nominees will be rejected.