The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Iran cleric in US warning

Tehran, June 20 (Reuters): A senior Iranian cleric warned Washington today not to treat Iran like Afghanistan or Iraq and urged courts to hand out death penalties to “hooligans” who took part in recent protests against Islamic clerical rule.

Sandwiched between Iraq and Afghanistan, Iran has come under heavy external and internal pressure in recent weeks, facing pro-democracy protests at home and vocal US accusations it is secretly building nuclear arms.

Protests against Iran’s clerical establishment appeared to have ended today with no reports of demonstrators gathering in the capital for a 10th night despite strong US support for the protesters.

Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, a member of the Guardian Council constitutional watchdog, warned Washington not to think it could deal with Iran in the same way it had with its two neighbours. “American leaders’ remarks show you have baseless thoughts and dreams about Iran... Don’t think Iran is Afghanistan or Iraq that you can enter by force,” said Yazdi, whose sermon was broadcast live on state radio.

Yazdi warned US officials not to exaggerate the importance of protests by “a few hooligans”.

The Iranian people “if they feel their country and religion is in danger, will come to the scene and fight the enemy until the last drop of their blood,” he said as worshippers chanted “Death to America”.

“Don’t think what I’m saying are mere slogans, this is the reality. Iran is different from Iraq and Afghanistan so don’t make decisions based on false reports,” he added.

Yazdi, a former judiciary chief, urged courts to deal with those arrested in the recent protests quickly and without mercy.

“They are rioters, hooligans and they have created insecurity and they are corrupt on earth. The judiciary should confront them as corrupt on earth,” he said.

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