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Iran's leader says Western agents not to blame, after all

Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran's most powerful man, says he's not convinced by show trials that June election protesters are tools of foreign powers.

By Staff writer / August 27, 2009

Former vice president and reformist Shiite cleric Mohamed Ali Abtahi is shown in June (l.), and on trial in August (r.)

Photo composite: AFP/Newscom/Reuters

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Late Wednesday, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei directly contradicted the narrative the country's hard-liners have spun about their reformist opponents in recent months: the reformists are not part of an international conspiracy to destroy the Islamic republic and move Iran into a US-controlled sphere of influence, after all.

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His comments come as the US and other Western governments are threatening to increase the pressure on Iran over its nuclear program. On Thursday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that if Iran does not enter meaningful negotiations on the program soon, new UN sanctions will be sought against the country. "If there is no positive answer by September we will have to consider further measures," said Mrs. Merkel.

In a statement read on state television, Khamenei – the most powerful man in the country's theocratic government – said weeks of show trials have failed to prove that leaders have been agents of foreign powers and the televised confessions to that effect.

The trials included an elaborate conspiracy theory by the state prosecutor that about 100 opposition politicians, clerics, academics, and journalists on trial were part of a plot orchestrated by the CIA, Israel, the billionaire philanthropist George Soros, and many others. Khamenei does continue to insist, however, that foreigners – and not popular dissatisfaction – were the ultimate causes of the protests.

Agence France-Presse quotes his statement as saying:

"I do not accuse the leaders of the recent incidents to be subordinate to the foreigners, like the United States and Britain, since this issue has not been proven for me," Khamenei said in a statement read out by a newsreader. "This plot was defeated, since fortunately our enemies still do not understand the issue in Iran," added the statement, which was read over pictures of Khamenei. "Our enemies were given a slap in face by the Iranian nation, but they are still hopeful and they are pursuing the issue."

However, the Associated Press reports that Khamenei said that protest leaders were still acting in the interests of foreign powers "whether or not
its leaders know."

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