Khamenei threatens protesters

Iran's Supreme Leader warns protesters of an assault if they continue massive demonstrations demanding a new election.

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TEHRAN // Iran's Supreme Leader has sternly warned protesters of an assault if they continue massive demonstrations demanding a new election. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei sided with the hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and offered no concessions to the opposition. He effectively closed any chance for a new vote by calling the June 12 election an "absolute victory". The speech created a stark choice for candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi and his supporters: drop their demands for a new vote or take to the streets again in blatant defiance of the man endowed with virtually limitless powers under Iran's constitution.

Mr Mousavi and his supporters have staged massive street rallies in recent days that have posed the greatest challenge to the Iran's Islamic ruling system since the 1979 Islamic Revolution that brought it to power. So far, the government has not stopped the protests with force despite an official ban on them. But Mr Khamenei opened the door for harsher measures. "It must be determined at the ballot box what the people want and what they don't want, not in the streets," he said. "I call on all to put an end to this method. ... If they don't, they will be held responsible for the chaos and the consequences." Mr Khamenei accused foreign media and western countries of trying to create a political rift and stir up chaos in Iran. "Some of our enemies in different parts of the world intended to depict this absolute victory, this definitive victory, as a doubtful victory," he said. "It is your victory. They cannot manipulate it."

Mr Khamenei blamed the US, Britain and what he called Iran's other enemies for fomenting unrest. He said Iran would not see a second revolution like those that transformed the countries of the former Soviet Union. Mr Khamenei said the street protests would not have any impact. "Some may imagine that street action will create political leverage against the system and force the authorities to give in to threats. No, this is wrong," he said.

* AP