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Iran's Khamenei praises Egyptian protesters, declares 'Islamic awakening'

Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme religious leader, addressed Egypt's protesters in Arabic on Friday, calling President Mubarak a 'traitor dictator' who has betrayed Egyptians.

By Staff writer / February 4, 2011

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei leads Friday prayers in Tehran on Feb. 4. Khamenei spoke out about Egypt’s antiregime protests Friday, declaring an 'Islamic awakening' across the region that is resulting in the 'irreparable defeat' of American and Israeli influence.

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Istanbul, Turkey

Iran’s supreme religious leader spoke out about Egypt’s antiregime protests Friday, declaring an “Islamic awakening” across the region that is resulting in the “irreparable defeat” of American and Israeli influence.

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Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Khamenei, addressing Egyptians in Arabic after delivering the Friday prayer sermon in Tehran, portrayed himself as “your brother in religion,” while praising the “explosion of sacred anger” and warning against any US role in the outcome.

Describing close US ally President Hosni Mubarak as a “traitor dictator” who is working for Israel and guilty of “great betrayal” of Egyptians, Ayatollah Khamenei said the regime-changing events in Tunisia and now Egypt were natural extensions of Iran’s own Islamic revolution in 1979.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Khamenei made no comparison between Egypt’s current people-power protest and the 2009 uprising of Iran’s own pro-democracy Green Movement. Several million Iranians took to the streets at the time, demanding political reform and freedoms, and calling Khamenei a dictator and burning his portrait, only to be forced from public view by a lethal crackdown.

On Friday, Khamenei sought to bolster Iran’s self-proclaimed role as a leader for the world’s Muslims, as part of an anti-US and anti-Western global power struggle. But Egyptian protesters themselves have had little good to say about any outside actor – including Iran – and have focused their demands on political freedoms and better living conditions.

“Do not believe in the game which is being played by the West and America; don’t believe in their role, don’t believe in their political maneuvers which are taking place in the midst of your awakening,” Khamenei warned Egyptians from the pulpit at Tehran University.

“Just a few days ago … the Americans were supporting the corrupt regime, and now after they are sick of preserving him, they are speaking about the rights of the people,” said Khamenei. “They are trying to replace one spy with another…. Look with doubt – always be suspicious – regarding the American role and American intervention," he said.

Echoes of 1979?

Iranian officials have embraced the popular protests erupting across the Arab world as a replay of the revolution that ushered in the Islamic Republic 32 years ago this week, with the return from exile of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Ayatollah Khomeini back then called for “export” across the world of Shiite Iran’s template of religious revolution, but Iran only made concrete inroads with the fellow Shiite population in Lebanon – in the form of close support for the Hezbollah militia.

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