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Iran supreme leader lauds state rally, warns West

world Updated: Feb 12, 2010 15:20 IST
Reuters
iran

Iran's supreme leader has praised the mass turnout at the government-backed rally marking the 1979 Islamic Revolution and warned the West to stop putting obstacles in his country's path, state Press TV reported on Friday.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei thanked the "tens of millions" who showed up on Thursday's anniversary, saying the gathering in downtown Tehran reflected the nation's strength and that it was time for "foreign enemies to wake up and abandon futile efforts to subjugate" Iran.

The statement on Khamenei's Web site came just hours after authorities released a crushing sweep on scattered anti-government demonstrations in the Iranian capital.

Police clashed with opposition activists, firing tear gas to disperse them and paintballs to mark them for arrest. Gangs of hard-liners also attacked senior opposition figures - including the wife of the head of the reform movement.

The massive government rally in central Tehran dwarfed the opposition gatherings, which were far smaller than other outpourings of dissent in recent months. Still, Thursday's events showed authorities must rely on full-scale pressures to keep a lid on demonstrations.

Khamenei's message blasted the West, warned the opposition at home and extolled Iran's progress under the clerical rule.

"The past thirty one years are not enough to awaken a few arrogant and bullying states to their futile efforts to dominate this Islamic nation," said Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters.

Khamenei said Thursday's rally should be a wake-up call for the "domestic enemies and deceived groups who claim to represent the people."

The authorities had worried ahead of the anniversary that any significant protests or clashes would be seen as a major embarrassment on a day intended to showcase national achievements and unity.

An array of riot police, undercover security agents and hard-line militiamen - some on motorcycles - had fanned out across Tehran on Thursday in what appeared to be the largest deployment since the post-election mayhem.

Authorities also jammed the Internet and mobile phones to disrupt the opposition. In Tehran, Internet speeds dropped dramatically and e-mail services such as Gmail were widely blocked.

Three major international broadcasters condemned Iran over its "deliberate electronic interference" in their broadcasts. The BBC, Deutsche Welle and Voice of America said in a joint statement the jamming began Thursday.

They said Iran was broadcasting freely around the world while denying its own people programs coming from the outside.

In a nationally televised address from the anniversary gathering, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad defied the West and boasted that Iran has become a "nuclear state."

He dismissed new U.S. sanctions and denigrated President Barack Obama's efforts to repair relations.

Ahmadinejad said Iran has produced the first batch of 20 percent enriched uranium - sufficient strength to power Iran's research reactor - though he did not say how much uranium had been enriched. Such a process has been at the heart of a U.N.-drafted proposal to provide Iran with reactor-ready fuel in exchange for its stockpile of low-enriched uranium.

Iran has repeatedly blocked the plan with conditions and caveats.

The announcement of the higher-enriched uranium adds to Western worries that Iran has long-term goals to develop nuclear arms - even though it is still below the 90 percent-plus level needed for a weapon. Iran insists it only seeks to produce energy and medical isotopes.