Khamenei issued the warning during his sermon at Friday Prayers in Tehran. It is
the first time the Iranian leader has led the Friday Prayers since the June
presidential election, when he called for an end to street protests over Mahmud
Ahmadinejad's controversial reelection.
Three months after the elections, Khamenei once again had strong words for the opposition, which continues to dispute Ahmadinejad's victory.
"There will be a very harsh reply if the sword is drawn against the establishment," he said.
He added, however, that differing views should not necessarily lead to conflict.
The Iranian leader made no direct accusations in his speech, but he made it
clear he was targeting high-profile opposition leaders.
"Those who are being addressed are of course individuals who have until now been part of the Islamic establishment. They're figures from the establishment; they're part of the establishment," he said. "God willing, in the future they will also all be part of this establishment, and work for it."
Next To Be Arrested?
In the past several days, two senior aides to Iranian opposition leaders Mir Hossein Musavi and Mehdi Karrubi have been arrested. One of them is the son of one of the founding fathers of the Islamic republic.
Some have speculated that Musavi and Karrubi may be next to be arrested. Many looked to Khamenei's speech for possible clues about their fate.
Political activist Hossein Shariatmadari told RFE/RL's Radio Farda that Khamenei sent a mixed message.
"He makes veiled comments, and it's still not clear whether he's planning to show leniency with Musavi, Karrubi and [Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani], or whether he's aiming to delude them," Shariatmadari said.
"On the one hand, he says they're part of the establishment. On the other hand, he says that criticism of the principles of the establishment will not be tolerated -- and he's the one who decides what those principles are."
Khamenei also called on Iranian citizens to take part in the annual
pro-Palestinian Quds Day march on September 18. But he issued a warning to those
seeking to use the sanctioned demonstrations as an opportunity to create
"discord" in society.
Members of the opposition have said they will protest on Quds Day to show their discontent with the reelection of Ahmadinejad and the crackdown that followed the vote.
Khamenei today also addressed the issue of Iran's nuclear program and said that Iran must stand firm on its right to nuclear energy.
"If we give up our rights, nuclear or otherwise, this will lead to decline," he said.
Khamenei's remarks come two days after Tehran handed over a new package of
proposals to the six-country group tasked with helping to resolve the crisis
over Iran's sensitive nuclear work.
Western countries have said that the proposal does not address the key issue of uranium enrichment, which the United States and other nations say could be used for nuclear weapons.
Radio Farda broadcaster Alireza Kermani contributed to this report.
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