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Page last updated at 10:55 GMT, Friday, 11 September 2009 11:55 UK

Iran leader vows 'harsh response'

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Ayatollah Khamenei has staunchly defended the election result

Iran's supreme leader has vowed to confront those who threaten national security, amid continuing disputes over the presidential election.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was leading Friday prayers in Tehran for the first time since June, when he defended President Ahmadinejad's re-election.

He said that "resisting the system" would bring "a harsh response".

Iran says 36 people died in violence after the 12 June polls; the opposition says double that number were killed.

This week the Iranian authorities arrested two prominent opposition figures and closed down the offices of Mehdi Karoubi, who was a presidential contender.

Palestinian protest

Ayatollah Khamenei's sermon was closely watched for indications of further moves against opponents.

We must stand firm for our rights. If we give up our rights, whether nuclear or other rights, this will lead to decline
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

In it he said: "Confronting the system, confronting the tenets of the system, standing up to and drawing a sword against the system will get a harsh response."

The ayatollah also sounded a note of conciliation, saying that "differences of views should not lead to conflicts".

But he added: "If opposition groups have ideas that are against the nation's security and the principles of the regime, they will be confronted."

The ayatollah urged Iranians to attend next Friday's annual pro-Palestinian protests in Tehran, but cautioned that there may be those who wished "to create discord".

On the nuclear issue, Ayatollah Khamenei said: "We must stand firm for our rights. If we give up our rights, whether nuclear or other rights, this will lead to decline."

He also berated the US and UK for "200 years of wicked attitude towards Iran. So be it. This will not intimidate anyone".

Continuing crackdown

The government in Tehran has come through a period of intense political upheaval since the elections.

Protests in Tehran, 30 July 2009
Days of clashes followed the disputed 12 June presidential poll

There has been a continuing crackdown on the opposition by government hardliners, and serious infighting within the establishment.

Analysts say that President Ahmadinejad is now in a more comfortable position, having had all but three members of his new cabinet approved by parliament in a vote of confidence last week.

Thousands of people were arrested in June following the mass street protests in Tehran that ended in violence as security forces moved to stop them.

Many have been released but Iran is currently trying a number of detainees over their alleged involvement in the protests.

They include opposition figures accused of conspiring with foreign powers to organise the unrest.

Both the Iranian parliament and judiciary have established committees to investigate the post-election unrest and the government's response.



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