JERUSALEM (JTA) — Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei denied that the country’s recent elections were fixed, called on protesters to stop and blamed the "Zionist" media.
In his first public address since the June 12 elections, Iran’s highest ranking political and religious authority accused the opposition of "challenging democracy after the elections."
Khamenei delivered a nearly two-hour sermon during Friday prayers at Tehran University, reportedly attended by tens of thousands of worshipers. He called on the opposition to take their protests off the streets and instead use legal channels to register their complaints about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s victory.
Turnout at the ballot box has been officially set at 85 percent, or 40 million voters, with Ahmadinejad winning by a margin of 11 million votes, or 60 percent of the vote.
"How one can rig 11 million votes?" Khamenei asked. “The Islamic republic state would not cheat and would not betray the vote of the people.”
Khamenei blamed the “media belonging to Zionists, evil media” for fomenting the demonstrations.
He also warned that if street demonstrations don’t end, then "leading politicians will be held accountable for the chaos.”
Hundreds of thousands of protesters on Thursday night again demonstrated in the streets of Tehran, the sixth day of ever-increasing protests in the Islamic Republic’s capital.
"This election was a political earthquake for our enemies and a celebration for its friends," Khamenei said. "This election showed religious democracy for the whole world to see."
Reporters representing media from around the world have been barred from covering the demonstrations or opposition news conferences, and have been restricted to one transmission of news per day.
Iran’s Guardian Council, the main oversight body of the country’s constitution, reportedly was planning to convene a meeting of the three losing candidates to discuss their accusations, reportedly as early as Saturday.