Iran's opposition leader makes public appearance

Iran Materials 7 July 2009 06:06 (UTC +04:00)

Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi made his first public appearance in a week Monday, vowing to continue his campaign against a government that he said lacks legitimacy. But his comments suggested he is abandoning massive street protests after they were quashed by a tough crackdown, AP reported.

Mousavi's statements, reported on an pro-opposition news Web site, reflect his movement's struggles to survive after a wave of arrests that netted protesters, top pro-reform politicians and journalists. Hard-liners have called for Mousavi himself to be jailed. Since the crackdown, the dramatic marches that filled main streets after the disputed June 12 presidential elections have vanished.

Meanwhile, the Islamic clerical leadership is showing its determination to keep control. Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Monday issued a sharp warning to Western nations not to criticize Iran over its crackdown, saying relations will suffer if they are seen as "meddling." Iranians, he said, would "unite against their enemies into one fist."

His warning appeared to be directed at world powers gathering at the G8 summit in Rome this week, who are to consider a coordinated response to Iran's turmoil.

In another sign of the regime's new toughness, the head of Iran's Revolutionary Guard acknowledged for the first time that the elite force - controlled by Khamenei - played the key role in putting an end to street protests.

Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari vowed to continue to defend the regime. The force's intervention gave "new life" to the 1979 Islamic Revolution and "strengthened the pillars of the Islamic Republic of Iran," he said in comments carried on the state news agency IRNA late Sunday.