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Khamenei Says Foreign Media Poisoning Iran

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

TEHRAN (Reuters) -- Iran's top authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, says western media are poisoning the Islamic state's atmosphere, state media reported.

The authorities have repeatedly accused foreign media of inciting tension in Iran since its disputed June presidential election followed by Iran's worst unrest since its 1979 Islamic revolution.

"Western media have been poisoning Iran's atmosphere, particularly in the past few months," Khamenei told worshippers at Tehran University on September 20, in a speech marking the end of Muslims' fasting month of Ramadan.

The opposition says the poll was rigged to secure President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's re-election on June 12, a charge denied by Iran's authorities, including Khamenei, who has accused Western powers of fomenting the vote unrest.

"The attempts by Iran's enemies (the West and Israel) and foreign media to weaken the Islamic republic failed," Khamenei said."Our dear nation disappointed them."

Hardliners have portrayed the opposition protests as a foreign-backed bid to undermine the Islamic government system.

Rights groups say thousands of people, including senior pro-reform figures, were arrested after the election, though most have been freed.

The opposition says more than 70 people died during street protests after the vote. The official death toll is 36.

Khamenei also said the Zionist regime was a "deadly tumor" in the Middle East region.

On September 18, Iranian security forces clashed with supporters of opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi during annual anti-Israel rallies in Iran.

A senior police official told the students news agency ISNA on Sunday that 25 Iranians had been arrested.

"The Qods (Jerusalem) Day was a day of clear shouts against the deadly cancer of Zionism that is spreading through the occupying hands of invaders and arrogant powers (in the region)," Khamenei said to chants of "Death to Israel".

Hardline President Ahmadinejad said on September 18 that the Holocaust was a "lie" and a pretext to create a Jewish state that Iranians had a religious duty to confront.

His comments on the Holocaust have caused an international outcry and isolated Iran, which is at loggerheads with the West over its nuclear program.

His government held a conference in 2006 questioning the fact that Nazis used gas chambers to kill 6 million Jews in World War Two. Iran refuses to recognize Israel.