REUTERS - Iran’s top authority warned on Friday that anybody fighting against the Islamic Republic would face a “harsh response,” in an apparent reference to street protests that erupted after the disputed June election.
“Resisting the system and taking out the sword against the system will be followed by a harsh response,” Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told Friday prayer worshippers in a sermon broadcast live on state television.
“If somebody stands against the basis of the (Islamic) system and violates people’s security, the system is forced to stand against it,” he said.
But he added criticism and differences among officials were acceptable.
It was the first time Khamenei led Friday prayers in Tehran since the one he held a week after the disputed June poll, when he endorsed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election, blamed the opposition for any bloodshed and accused Western powers of interfering in Iran’s domestic affairs.
The election and its turbulent aftermath plunged Iran into its deepest internal crisis since the 1979 Islamic revolution, exposing deepening divisions within its ruling elites and adding to tension with the West.
Rights groups say thousands of people, including senior pro-reform figures, were arrested after the presidential poll. Most have been freed but more than 200 remain in jail, according to the opposition.
Khamenei urged people to show up for next Friday’s annual demonstrations in Tehran and other cities in favour of the Palestinians.
But he also warned that some people may want to use the Qods (Jerusalem) day “to create discord”, reflecting the authorities’ concern that the opposition may try to stage election-related rallies on that day.