IRAN: Prayer leader condemns protesters, shuns 'satanic' nuclear negotiations
Friday prayer leader Ahmad Khatami, a hard-line acolyte of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, condemned the protesters who took part in Wednesday's anti-government march, and attempted to create divisions within the ranks of the protest movement.
Khatami, not to be confused with the reformist former president of the same last name, simultaneously and contradictorily downplayed the protest, admonished opposition supporters and besought them to come back into the fold.
"Out of the hundreds and thousands of people who take to the streets, only one or two thousand shouted" opposition slogans, he said. "Americans must not be happy, as there is no red carpet waiting for them."
Then he shifted gears.
"My brothers and sisters who have fallen in the wrong and incorrect track, look who is supporting you," he said.
"Those who were named by the late imam [Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini] as 'blasphemous' and their Islam was called 'Americanized Islam.' The miserable monarchists are supporting you. What is wrong if you follow the mainstream of the nation? Come back to the embrace of the nation and the nation will accept your repenting and remorse."
But, he added, "Of course the criminals’ cases are different and they should be punished."
In a pre-sermon speech, Alaedin Boroujerdi, head of parliament's national security and foreign affairs committee, said the protesters were aping slogans on Voice of America.
"The leaders [of the opposition] used to be high-ranking officials," he said, in a slap at reformists who once dominated the government. "Now, they repeat the same slogans."
Then Khatami, took to the podium, eventually reaching the topic of U.S.-Iran relations in the wake of attempts to jump-start talks over Tehran's nuclear ambitions.
He brooked little possibility of an imminent deal.
"Our uncompromising stance is not out of being obstinate or prejudiced or sentimental," he said. "No, we believe that since the 1953 coup against [Mohammad] Mosaddegh, the U.S. has done nothing except treason against our nation, and since the beginning of our revolution, as [Khomeini] said, we can compile a book about the crimes committed by U.S."
He accused the U.S. of being involved in plots against Iran, instigating ethnic groups to revolt and imposing war on the nation.
He said the Obama administration recently released $50 million for "toppling our system."
"President Obama said that the U.S. did not interfere in the post-election unrest," Khatami said. "He is telling a lie. As long as the U.S. will not give up its arrogant character, our nation is not going to be engaged in satanic negotiations."
The crowd of hard-liners chanted "Death to America."
"They say Iran should build confidence," he continued. "On the contrary. Iran does not trust you."
-- Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran and Borzou Daragahi in Beirut