Iran's Supreme Leader Backs Election Result
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
And I'm Robert Siegel.
In Iran, protestors supporting the main presidential challenger face a tough choice: keep up their demonstrations or give in. Today, Iran's supreme leader warned the protestors that enough is enough. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who holds ultimate power in Iran, told a Friday prayer service that the street demonstrations must stop. Despite the Ayatollah's stance, another mass march is planned for tomorrow. As we've mentioned before, most foreign journalists have been sent out of Iran, but NPR's Mike Shuster continues to monitor the story from Dubai.
MIKE SHUSTER: Ayatollah Khamenei minced no words and made no concessions to the opposition. In fact, over the course of a two-hour speech, Khamenei's words turned more and more threatening. First, he hailed the vote and Iran's democracy, which he said the enemies of Iran, such as the U.S., Great Britain and Israel failed to undermine.
Ayatollah ALI KHAMENEI (Supreme Leader, Iran): (Through Translator) Trusting the Islamic establishment was evident in this election. The enemies targeted this very trust of the people in Islamic establishments. They want this trust to be crushed. That's what the enemies want.
SHUSTER: Then Khamenei focussed on the claims of the opposition that the election was stolen and Mir Hossein Mousavi was the real winner. Ahmadinejad won the election by 11 million votes. It's impossible to rig a result of that size, Khamenei told the prayer service packed with thousands of his supporters.
Ayatollah KHAMENEI: (Through translator) Eleven million votes difference. Sometimes there is a margin of 100,000, 200,000 - but - or one million maximum. Then one can doubt maybe there has been some vote rigging, or manipulation or irregularities, but there is a difference of 11 million votes. How can vote rigging happen?
(Soundbite of crowd chanting)
SHUSTER: There was much speculation that Ayatollah Khamenei might put some distance between himself and President Ahmadinejad, whose comments since the election have only inflamed the situation further. After the results were announced, Ahmadinejad said those who continue to protest are like disappointed soccer fans whose team had lost. Even more dismissively, he called them dirt and dust. Demonstrators began carrying placards that proclaimed: We are your dust. Ahmadinejad was forced to explain those remarks.
President MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD (Iran): (Through Translator) I meant those who riot, those who set fire to buildings and attack people, my comment was aimed at such individuals. I said those individuals did not belong to our nation and are aliens to our nation. I stressed that this election victory belong to 70 million Iranians, and the 40 million who took part in voting. Everyone is a winner.
SHUSTER: Ayatollah Khamenei today made it clear - he personally favored Ahmadinejad over the other candidates. He urged Mousavi and the other losing candidates to pursue their complaints through the 12-member Guardian Council, which oversees elections. They have been invited to meet with the Guardian Council tomorrow, but it is obvious from Khamenei's comments that Mousavi's demand to hold a new election will not be met. And it is clear the ayatollah has no more tolerance for the ongoing street protests that have rocked Tehran over the past week.
Ayatollah KHAMENEI: (Through translator) I want everyone to put an end to this. This is not the right thing to do. If they don't stop this, then the consequences - they will be held accountable for all this.
(Soundbite of crowd chanting)
SHUSTER: Many have already taken this as a threat to crack down on the marchers. The first test could come tomorrow, when a march has been called for the same route was hundreds of thousands protested last Monday. The Mousavi camp initially asked for permission to hold the march, says one source in Tehran who preferred not to give his name.
Unidentified Man #1: Either the Interior Ministry gives them the permission or not, now everybody knows that Saturday afternoon from Inquilab Square, very close to Tehran University, to Azadi Square, very close to Mehrabad Airport, there will be a mass rally exactly like Monday.
SHUSTER: Late today, the Interior Ministry denied permission to hold tomorrow's march.
Mike Shuster, NPR News, Dubai.
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