Iran's Supreme Leader declares elections fair

Ayatollah Khamenei warns protesters to stay off the streets

Published June 19, 2009 1:01PM (EDT)

In a momentous sermon this morning, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared Iran's recent presidential fair. It was Khamenei's first public appearance since the outbreak of widespread protests in response to last Friday's disputed election.

Khamenei spoke sternly and warned protesters to stay off the streets. He said the election reflected the decision of the Iranian people. “Street challenge is not acceptable,” Khamenei said. “This is challenging democracy after the elections.” He warned that opposition leaders and supporters of apparently defeated challenger Mir Hussein Mousavi would be “held responsible for chaos” if the protests continued.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was in the audience for the speech, during which Khamenei said that the 11 million vote differential between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi indicates that there was no voter fraud. Describing the elections as "historic," Khamenei said, “The Islamic republic state would not cheat and would not betray the vote of the people.”

There was no immediate response to Khamenei's speech from Mousavi or his supporters.

The speech came as paramilitaries known as Basijis, who are loyal to Ahmadinejad, announced that they were going to take to the streets Friday to directly confront those protesting Friday's election results. The Basijis have links to Hezbollah.

By Vincent Rossmeier

Vincent Rossmeier is an editorial assistant at Salon.

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