Iran's leader says enemies have stirred unrest in country

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Khamenei says they are using cash, weapons, politics to undermine government

LONDON Iran's Supreme Leader yesterday accused enemies of the Islamic Republic of stirring unrest across the country as a crackdown intensified against anti-government demonstrations that began last week.

Some 450 protesters in the capital Teheran were arrested in the past three days, the deputy provincial governor said.

Protesters attacked police stations elsewhere in Iran late into the night on Monday, reports said.

One member of the security forces was reportedly killed, bringing to at least 14 the death toll stemming from the boldest challenge to Iran's clerical leadership since unrest in 2009.

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

He did not mention any enemies by name and said on his website that he would address the nation about the recent events "when the time is right".

Secretary Ali Shamkhani of the Supreme National Security Council said the United States, 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," he was quoted as saying.

Mr Musa Ghazanfarabadi, head of Teheran's Revolutionary Court, warned protesters yesterday that those arrested would face harsh punishment.

The semi-official ILNA news agency quoted Mr Ali Asghar Naserbakht, deputy governor of Teheran province, as saying that 200 people were arrested on Saturday, 150 on Sunday and about 100 on Monday.

Hundreds of others have been arrested in other cities, according to reports and social media.

Mr Naserbakht said the situation in Teheran was under control and the police had not asked for the help of the Revolutionary Guards special forces.

Deputy Interior Minister Hossein Zolfaghari said 90 per cent of the detainees were under 25, showing frustration among youth from the economic situation and lack of social freedoms.

Mehr news agency quoted a judiciary official as saying that several ringleaders of protests in Karaj, the fourth largest city in Iran, have been arrested.

Mr 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.- REUTERS