LA TIMES: supreme leader tells militias not to meddle, but Basiji leader warns protesters

9 01 2010

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei attempts to ease tensions while Brig. Gen. Mohammad-Reza Naghdi says his forces are prepared to clamp down on the opposition movement.

by Borzou Daragahi

Reporting from Beirut – Iran’s supreme leader today warned shadowy pro-government militias not to interfere in the nation’s post-election unrest even as the head of the notorious Basiji militia warned that his forces would “jump into the fray” if authorities don’t act strongly against the opposition movement.

In his first public comments since protests last month that coincided with a major religious holiday, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made a rare attempt at easing tensions. Two days after gunmen with suspected ties to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard allegedly opened fire on the car of opposition figure Mehdi Karroubi, Khamenei urged all to abide by the law.

“Relevant bodies should fully respect the law in dealing with the riots and the ongoing events,” he told clergy and seminary students bused in from the shrine city of Qom for an annual political commemoration.

“Those without any legal duty and obligations should not meddle with these affairs,” he said. “Everyone should hold back from arbitrary acts and everything should go within the framework of the law.”

But Brig. Gen. Mohammad-Reza Naghdi, the head of the Basiji militia, warned that many people across the country were ready to carry out their duties against what he called the desecraters of religious holidays.

“Now, all our people expect the security and intelligence organs as well as the judiciary to take action,” he told the hard-line Fars news agency. “People will jump into the fray if they feel these bodies are lax in their duties. People are critical of the laxness of security and judicial bodies against conspirators.”

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