- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 7, 2009

TEHRAN | 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 that he is abandoning massive street protests after they were quashed by a tough crackdown.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, meanwhile, warned Western governments Monday of a “negative impact” on relations over what he called their meddling in Iran’s postelection riots.

“We need to make efforts to show our protest … within the framework of the law,” Mr. Mousavi said as he welcomed well-wishers at his home for a holiday commemorating Shi’ism’s most important saint, Imam Ali.

“The legitimacy of this government is in question because of the people’s lack of trust. This weakens the government from within even if it preserves it in appearance,” he said, according to the Iranian news Web site Parsine.

Mr. Mousavi and his supporters say he was defrauded of victory in the June 12 presidential election, in which hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was re-elected. Massive street protests erupted calling for a new election but were quashed in a crackdown in which Iranian authorities say 20 people were killed.

In a 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 Ayatollah 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.

Ayatollah Khamenei upheld the election results, and the cleric-led leadership has depicted the protests as instigated by foreign governments.

Iran’s parliament speaker, Ali Larijani, meanwhile, issued a warning to the United States on Monday after Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said Washington would not dictate the way Israel deals with Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, Agence France-Presse reported.

“We will consider the Americans responsible in any adventure launched by the Zionist entity,” Mr. Larijani, Iran’s former nuclear negotiator, told reporters during an official visit in Doha, Qatar, referring to Israel.

He warned that Iran’s response to an attack would be “decisive and painful.”

Ayatollah Khamenei, who holds final say in all state matters, lashed out Monday against criticism from abroad in a speech for the holiday.

“Some leaders of Western countries at the level of president, prime minister and foreign minister openly intervened in Iran’s internal affairs that had nothing to do with them. Then, they said they don’t intervene in Iran’s internal affairs,” Ayatollah Khamenei said, according to state television.

“The Iranian nation warns the leaders of those countries trying to take advantage of the situation: Beware. The Iranian nation will react,” he said, according to Agence France-Presse.

In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy said his country stands by Britain amid tensions with Iran over the postelection unrest. In a joint news conference with the French leader, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Monday that “the Iranian regime must be clear that we will act together with our European partners.”

Agence France-Presse reported Monday that a French female academic had been detained in Iran on spying charges.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said the 23-year-old woman had been working for five months as a teaching assistant at the University of Isfahan and dismissed the accusation of espionage as “absurd.”

“She took part in demonstrations, which, as you know, attracted hundreds of thousands of Iranians and like most of them, she took photographs in all innocence. That’s what she’s accused of,” Mr. Kouchner told France Info radio. “I think it’s an accusation which doesn’t hold up.”

In the postelection fallout, Iran detained more than a thousand protesters, along with hundreds of activists, journalists and bloggers. While police say most of the protesters have been released, dozens of prominent political activists remain in jail on vague charges of “acting against national security.”

Britain’s Foreign Office said Monday that Iran has released another British Embassy staff member, leaving one employee still in custody.

The detained employee was identified by his lawyer Abdolsamad Khorramshi as Hossein Rassam, a political analyst at the embassy.

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