TEHRAN // Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned opposition leaders to distance themselves from protesters whom he accused of acting "against Islam." "Those who shout slogans in the name of these people (opposition leaders), hoist their pictures and speak of them with respect are in a point which is the exact opposite of Imam (founder of the revolution Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini), revolution and Islam," Mr Khamenei said on state television.
"When you see this, step aside," he said to opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, describing them as his "former brothers." "I don't believe in purging, I believe in maximum attraction, but it looks as if some people insist on distancing themselves from the system and they have turned a family dispute into a battle against the system," Mr Khamenei said. Opposition supporters staged fresh anti-government rallies on December 7 and their leaders have vowed to continue protesting against the June 12 re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in what they say was a massively rigged poll.
The sloganeering has grown more radical recently than in the early protests, and regime loyalists held angry demonstrations this week against the "insulting" of Mr Khomeini in the December 7 Students Day protest. The counter-protests were triggered by state television airing footage of a torn poster of Mr Khomeini. Opposition leaders condemned the act and also rebuked the state television. Mr Khamenei has also accused Western powers of instigating the post-vote unrest, and on Sunday warned the opposition leaders that: "they should realise something is wrong with them when US, French and British leaders, who are the embodiment of tyranny, support them.
"They should be warned when they see all corrupt people, monarchists, communists, exiled dancers and musicians support them," said the all-powerful leader. * AFP