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Iran's Supreme Leader Warns Opposition About 'Instability'

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran
Iran's supreme leader has warned the country's opposition against any actions that could destabilize the Islamic establishment, saying the country's "elite" should be cautious about the positions they take on the postelection crisis.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei described the disruption of security as "the biggest sin," and added that anyone who drives society toward insecurity and disorder will be "a hated person in the view of the Iranian nation, whoever he is."

"The elite should know that any comment, any action, any analysis, that helps [the enemy] is an act contrary to the nation's movement. We all have to be very careful," Khamenei said.

He continued: "Some things shouldn't be said. If we do say it, then we have acted against our responsibility. [Iran's] elite are facing a test. It's a great test."

Khamenei made the comments just three days after influential former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said many Iranians had lost their trust in the establishment following the country's hotly disputed June 12 presidential vote.

Rafsanjani said the vote has led to a crisis in which all sides have lost. He proposed a number of ways to remedy the situation, including the release of all those who have been detained in the postelection crackdown.

While Rafsanjani has come under fire from hard-liners for his comments, a number of reformist figures and groups have welcomed his comments and the solutions he offered during his Friday Prayer sermon on June 17.

Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami said on July 19 that Rafsanjani's suggestions are the bare minimum needed to calm the atmosphere in the country. Khatami added that a referendum should be held through which Iranians could indicate whether they are satisfied with the status quo or not.

Khatami suggested that the referendum should be held by "independent bodies," including the Expediency Council, which Rafsanjani heads.

The Association of Combatant Clerics, a reformist party, has backed Khatami's call, saying in a statement that a referendum would be the only way out of the current crisis and that "insistence on ineffective options would further damage public trust."

The call for a referendum is seen as a challenge to Khamenei, who on June 19 described the election result and the high turnout as a show of people's trust in the Islamic system.

In his statement on July 20, Khamenei did not directly comment on the suggestions by Rafsanjani and Khatami, but observers believe his comments were clearly directed at those who have disputed the election results.

Growing Divide

Khamenei's comments further expose the divisions within the Iranian establishment that have widened since the June 12 vote.

While Khamenei has made it clear that the election file is closed, others -- including reformist presidential candidates Mir Hossein Musavi and Mehdi Karrubi -- have called the new government illegitimate.

Meanwhile, President Mahmud Ahmadinejad is putting together his new cabinet and getting ready for his August swearing-in ceremony.

Neither of the two camps appears to be willing to back down.

Alireza Haghighi, a Toronto-based political analyst, told Radio Farda that Khamenei believes that those who question the vote are endangering the establishment.

"In his view, comments such as those made by Rafsanjani in the Friday Prayers can create distrust in the system, and in fact the crisis can be exploited by the enemies of the establishment inside and outside and countries that are at odds with Iran over its nuclear program and other issues."

While Khamenei seemed to be telling the opposition to stop its protests, another demonstration is planned for July 21 to mourn the victims of the violent repression of peaceful protesters.

The last demonstration took place on July 17 following Rafsanjani's sermon. The appearance of hundreds of thousands of protesters on the streets of Tehran was seen as giving the protest movement a new boost.

While meeting with the families of some of those who have been detained in the aftermath of the election, former Prime Minister Musavi -- who is seen by many as the leader of the opposition movement -- said people should have the right to protest and express themselves freely.

He said Iranians cannot be silenced with what he described as a return to "pre-revolutionary methods."

Iran Election Special

Iran Election Special
RFE/RL's Full Coverage
Following the disputed reelection of Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, supporters of Mir Hossein Musavi have taken to the streets to protest. Click here for news, blogs, and analysis of the presidential election and aftermath.
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    Golnaz Esfandiari

    Golnaz Esfandiari is managing editor of RFE/RL's Radio Farda, which breaks through government censorship to deliver accurate news and provide a platform for informed discussion and debate to audiences in Iran. She has reported from Afghanistan and Haiti and is one of the authors of The Farda Briefing newsletter. Her work has been cited by The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other major publications. Born and raised in Tehran, she is fluent in Persian, French, English, and Czech.

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