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Hard-Line Iran Cleric Urges Tough Stance On Detainees

Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami
TEHRAN (Reuters) -- A hard-line Iranian cleric has urged the judiciary to resist Western pressure to free Western-linked detainees held after the country's disputed June presidential election, state radio said.

"Iranians expect the judiciary to act strongly and firmly and not to yield to Western pressure [to release detainees linked to the West]," senior cleric Ahmad Khatami told worshippers at Tehran University.

Iran has staged mass trials of those arrested after June 12 the vote, including a Frenchwoman and employees of the British and French embassies, in a move aimed at uprooting the opposition and putting an end to protests.

The opposition says the poll was rigged to secure President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's reelection, a charge Iran's authorities deny, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

He has accused Western powers of fomenting the vote unrest. The losing candidates say 69 people were killed in the unrest, more than double the official toll of 26.

Ahmadinejad, who was sworn in last week, must name a cabinet and seek parliament's approval in what may be a stormy process.