(RFE/RL) -- Iran's supreme leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has played down hard-line accusations that the leaders of the huge opposition protests that followed the disputed presidential election in June were working for foreign powers.
Speaking to students in Tehran on August 26, Khamenei said he had received no proof of those accusations.
He said anybody making allegations must be able to provide solid evidence, as the judiciary could not move forward on "guesswork" and "rumors."
But Khamenei repeated his view that the rioting -- which began after the announcement that President Mahmud Ahmadinejad had won reelection -- was planned in advance from outside, whether local opposition leaders were aware of that or not.
He said the authorities had expected trouble to be fomented by the enemies of Iran, but he was surprised by the Iranian personalities who turned out to be involved. This appeared to be an oblique reference to presidential candidates Mehdi Karrubi, Mir Hossein Musavi, and others who led the resistance to the June vote results.
Iranian affairs expert Abbas Milani of Stanford University says Khamenei is trying to calm the turmoil of the last six weeks by avoiding accusing the opposition of what is in effect treason.
"In my opinion, Khamenei's speech was an abrupt turnabout. He was backing off the hard-line speech he made at Friday Prayers a few weeks ago," Milani says.
"This earlier speech was the biggest political miscalculation in the supreme leader's career. However, the turnabout, in my opinion, is simply too little, too late."Infighting Continues
The rift between the hard-liners and moderates in the Islamic republic continues to widen, with a scathing attack from Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri on Khamenei in particular and the hard-liners in general.
Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri
Montazeri writes on his website that Khamenei is running a "despotic" dictatorship in the name of Islam, which has "trampled" on the rights of the Iranian people. The system is not Islamic at all, he says.
Montazeri has long been a critic of Khamenei, and spent five years under house arrest for saying that Khamenei was not qualified to be the supreme leader. Still, attacks of such ferocity on the supreme leader are rare.
Montazeri also described the ongoing trials in Tehran of more than a hundred senior opposition figures as having "ridiculed Islamic justice."
In the latest of these trials, veteran reformist Saeed Hajjarian on August 25 made a dramatic "confession" of his mistakes, recognized Khamenei's authority, and begged forgiveness.
Hajjarian had to be helped into the courtroom, because of injuries he sustained in an assassination attempt against him in 2000.
One of Iran's most senior reformers, Hajjarian had been detained for weeks at an undisclosed location after the postelection unrest.
His is one of a number of "confessions" at the present mass trials.
Former President Mohammad Khatami, a close ally of Hajjarian, condemned such confessions as invalid, saying they were coerced and consisted of "sheer lies."
compiled from news agency material