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Iran: Leaders Blame U.S. For Protests

Tehran, 13 June 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Iranian leaders have accused the United States of being behind antigovernment protests that have resulted in clashes between demonstrators and security forces in Tehran. A third night of protests ended this morning with reports of dozens of people injured and the arrests of some demonstrators. The violence included hard-line vigilantes on motorcycles chasing down some protesters and beating them with cattle prods.

In the three nights of protests -- the biggest in Iran in months -- the protesters have demanded changes to Iran's Islamic clerical regime and a speeded-up pace of reforms. Some demonstrators have called for the death of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Khamenei and other authorities have warned of a crackdown to halt the protests. Khamenei, who blamed the U.S. for stirring up the unrest, in a 12 June address on state media called on young people not to get involved. "I recommend to all faithful youth, all free-spirited youth, and all young 'hizbullahi' [followers of the Party of God] not to get involved if some people have set the stage for unrest," he said.

Former President Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani today also blamed the United States for the unrest, urging Iranian youth not be deceived by what he called "American plots."