Page last updated at 17:35 GMT, Sunday, 13 December 2009

Iran opposition accused of insulting founder Khomeini

Iranian opposition supporters display posters of Ayatollah Khomeini at Tehran University, 13 December
Iranian opposition supporters displayed posters of Ayatollah Khomeini at Tehran University on Sunday to show their loyalty

Iran's Supreme Leader has accused the opposition of breaking the law by insulting the Islamic Republic's founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged opposition leaders to identify "those behind the insult to Imam Khomeini".

The remarks centre on an alleged incident last Monday during which a poster of Imam Khomeini was torn up.

Opposition leaders say the alleged incident - shown on state television - has been doctored.

The opposition has been refusing to endorse the result of the presidential election in June which returned President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power for a second term.

They allege the poll was widely rigged.

The election dispute is now radicalising both sides, says the BBC's Tehran correspondent, Jon Leyne.

'Hopeless enemies'

Ayatollah Khamenei said on Sunday: "The election is over."

One of the most recognisable faces of the late 20th Century
Religious and political leader who made Iran the world's first Islamic republic in 1979
Provoked international controversy by issuing a fatwa (order) for Muslims to kill the writer Salman Rushdie for his novel The Satanic Verses in 1989
Succeeded after his death in 1989 by Ayatollah Khamenei

He said opposition leaders had been unable to "demonstrate their claim" that there had been fraud. The disputed election led to the largest street protests since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, with thousands arrested and dozens killed.

Opposition supporters have been banned from demonstrating - but last Monday, when the alleged incident occurred, they used an officially sanctioned event to protest.

In his remarks, broadcast on state TV on Sunday, Iran's Supreme Leader said: "Some people created riots and encouraged people to stand against the system... paving the way for our hopeless enemies to undermine the Islamic revolution."

He urged opposition leaders to return to "the right path".

His warning on the alleged insult to the republic's founder was echoed by a statement issued by the Revolutionary Guards.

The torn poster of Ayatollah Khomeini shown on Iranian TV
State media showed a ripped-up poster of the late leader

"We, as followers of Imam Khomeini, will not tolerate any shortcoming in identifying, trying and punishing those behind the insult and those who carried it out," their statement said.

The two opposition leaders who have refused to accept that they lost the election, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, said the images showing the alleged insult were fake.

"I am sure the students have never gone over such boundaries, because we all know they love the imam and are prepared to sacrifice their lives for his goals," Mr Mousavi said, according to newspaper Jomhouri Eslami.

Khomeini, who led the 1979 overthrow of the Shah, remains widely revered in Iran.

He died 10 years later.

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The News International Iran faces new sanctions over nuke issue: Feltman - 18 hrs ago
Telegraph Iran's Khamenei issues stern warning to opposition - 24 hrs ago
Trade Arabia Iran supreme leader warns opposition - 25 hrs ago
Haaretz Iran leader lashes out at opposition for tearing photo of Khomeini - 28 hrs ago
The Independent Iranian hardliners lash out at opposition after protests - 51 hrs ago

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