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Enemies stirring unrest: Ayatollah

Toll from anti-govt protests rises to 21

 Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran on Tuesday. (AFP)

London: Iran's Supreme Leader on Tuesday accused enemies of the Islamic Republic of stirring unrest across the country as the death toll from anti-government demonstrations that began last week rose to 21.

Nine Iranians were killed in Isfahan province during protests on Monday night, including two members of the security forces, state television said. Six protesters were killed during an attack on a police station in the town of Qahderijan. The governor of Falavarjan county said the protesters were armed.

The deputy provincial governor of Tehran said police have arrested more than 450 protesters in the capital over the past three days as security forces struggle to contain the boldest challenge to Iran's clerical leadership since unrest in 2009.

In his first reaction to the unrest, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said: "In recent days, enemies of Iran used different tools including cash, weapons, politics and intelligence apparatus to create troubles for the Islamic Republic."

Khamenei said on his website that he would address the nation about the recent events"when the time is right". He did not mention any enemies by name but Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, said the US, Britain and Saudi Arabia were behind the recent riots in Iran.

"Saudis will receive Iran's unexpected response and they know how serious it can be," Shamkhani was quoted as saying by Tasnim news in an interview with Beirut-based Al Mayadeen TV. Musa Ghazanfarabadi, head of Tehran's Revolutionary Court, warned protesters on Tuesday that those arrested would face harsh punishment.

Ghazanfarabadi said the detainees will be soon put on trial and the ringleaders would face serious charges including " moharebeh" - an Islamic term meaning warring against God - which carries the death penalty. The semi-official ILNA news agency quoted Ali Asghar Naserbakht, the deputy governor of Tehran province, as saying that 200 people were arrested on Saturday in Tehran, 150 people on Sunday and about 100 people on Monday. Reuters

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