Tue, Jul 07, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Khamenei warns against interference

EMBASSY WORKERS: The eighth of nine Iranians working for the British embassy in Tehran was freed yesterday. Meanwhile, a key council has rejected the election results


Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned Western countries yesterday against interfering in Iranian affairs, state television reported.

“We strongly warn leaders of some Western countries not to interfere in Iran’s internal matters ... The Iranian nation will react,” he told a crowd of thousands in Tehran.

He said Iran will pay attention to the remarks and behaviors of these governments and said that it will definitely have a negative impact on future relations.

Iranian officials accuse the West, particularly the US and Britain, of inciting unrest following the June 12 presidential election in which hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was re-elected.

“The election was a major move ... The enemies want to create dispute among Iranians. What does it have to do with the enemies?” said Khamenei, Iran’s most powerful figure.

However, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown warned Iran yesterday that the EU was ready to act in response to British embassy staff detentions and explusion of diplomats.

“If this action continues and we are forced to act, we will act together with our European partners,” he said at a joint news conference with French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Evian-les-Bains, France.

His comment came just hours after London confirmed earlier that Iran had released an eighth local staff member of the British embassy in Tehran, leaving one still in detention.

Sarkozy said the people of Iran deserved better leadership and pledged to support Britain in its standoff with Tehran.

“Really, the Iranian people deserve better than the leaders they have today,” he said.

Britain has denied Iranian accusations that the staff were involved in instigating opposition protests after the vote, which defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi says was rigged in favor of Ahmadinejad.

“It remains our top priority to get all of our embassy staff released as soon as possible,” a Foreign Office spokeswoman said. “We are continuing intensive discussions with the Iranian authorities and our international partners to resolve this issue.”

The only remaining embassy detainee is Hossein Rassam, a respected political analyst who has been told he will face trial on charges of harming national security. Rassam’s lawyer said he had not been allowed to visit him in prison or read the charges.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said on Sunday that Rassam was “an honorable, patriotic Iranian, who has been working in a completely open and transparent way for the UK”.

“The allegations of improper conduct have absolutely no basis,” Miliband told the BBC. “I think it is very, very important that we send a clear message that we are confident about the way he has been doing his job [and] that we are clear about our goal, which is his release, unharmed.”

The powerful Guardians Council said on Friday that some of the British staff would be put on trial for their alleged role in stoking violence after the June 12 election, but did not say how many.

Tehran has also expelled two British diplomats from Iran, with Britain expelling two Iranian diplomats in a tit-for-tat measure.

Meanwhile, deepening splits among the clergy came to the surface on Sunday, with a senior clerical group calling Ahmadinejad’s re-election “illegitimate.”

The Assembly of Scholars and Researchers at Qom seminary rejected the official results and called for the release of political prisoners.

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