Hojatoleslam Zolnour made the comments earlier this week at Qom University.
He was quoted as saying that "Zionists" have security plans for Muslim pilgrimage sites including Mecca, Karbala, and other sites where he said it was likely that the Hidden Imam could appear. The Hidden Imam or the Promised Mahdi is the 12th imam of Shi'ite Islam, who Muslims believe will appear to bring peace and justice on Earth and put an end to tyranny.
"They've told their soldiers to kill immediately whomever they see with the characteristics [of the Hidden Imam] and not even take the risk to arrest him because he is a very awesome and dangerous person," Zolnour said.
Last December, Iran's President Mahmud Ahmadinejad accused the United States of doing all it could to prevent the return of Imam Mahdi.
"We have documented proof that they [U.S. leaders] believe that a descendant of the prophet of Islam will raise in these parts [the Middle East] and he will dry the roots of all injustice in the world. They have devised all these plans to prevent the coming of the Hidden Imam because they know that the Iranian nation is the one that will prepare the ground for his coming and will be the supporters of his rule," he said.
Ahmadinejad did not say what documents he had to prove his claim, nor did Zolnour, who said that all the characteristics that were given about the Hidden Imam in the Koran and Hadith had been "extracted" by the "Zionists," who have given them to their "soldiers in Iraq."
Since the coming to power of Ahmadinejad, who appears to believe that the return of the Promised Mahdi is imminent, the emphasis on the absent Imam has increased in the Islamic republic, leading to criticism by some over what they see as the promotion of superstitious beliefs by Iranian officials.
Iran's former top nuclear negotiator, Hassan Rohani, was quoted as saying in 2008 that superstition was growing in the Islamic republic and that people were even putting out food for the Mahdi in case he returned that very night.
-- Golnaz Esfandiari