Saturday, June 20, 2009

Khamenei Threatens "bloodshed and chaos”

From The New York Times, June 20, 2009, by NAZILA FATHI and ALAN COWELL:

TEHRAN — Taking an unequivocal stand against days of mass protests, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, sternly warned opposition supporters [in a sermon] on Friday to stay off the streets and raised the prospect of violence if their defiant, vast demonstrations continued.

He said bluntly that opposition leaders would be “responsible for bloodshed and chaos” if they did not stop further rallies in protest of last week’s disputed presidential election.

...In Washington, both the House and Senate overwhelmingly passed resolutions condemning the Iranian government’s crackdown on the opposition.

...Mr. Obama said he was “very concerned based on some of the tenor — and tone of the statements that have been made,” and that the government of Iran should recognize that “the world is watching.”

...Just hours after the polls closed last Friday, Iranian election authorities declared a landslide victory for the incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. ...Khamenei denied the opposition’s accusations that the vote was rigged...

...The opposition, led mainly by one of the declared losing candidates, Mir Hussein Moussavi, had called for or encouraged the huge silent marches in Tehran for the last four days. There was no immediate response from Mr. Moussavi.

But opposition Web sites called another large rally for Saturday afternoon, setting the stage for a confrontation between protesters and security forces.

...the sermon showed that Iran was in the grips of what one person called “an all-or-nothing showdown” between the authorities and reformists.

...[UK] Prime Minister Gordon Brown stepped up his public criticism. ...the BBC announced that it was using two extra satellites broadcast its Persian-language service into Iran to restore the signal after days of jamming by Iranian authorities.

...It was not clear whether Iran’s government, made up of fractious power centers, was pursuing a calculated strategy or if the moves reflected internal disagreements, or an uncertainty not apparent in Ayatollah Khamenei’s address.

Also uncertain was the role being played by a former Iranian president, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who supported Mr. Moussavi and is in a power struggle with Ayatollah Khamenei. There were unconfirmed reports Thursday that two of his children had been banned from leaving the country because of their role in helping the protesters...
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