ALI AKBAR DAREINI Associated Press Writers TEHRAN
Iran's supreme leader said today that the country's disputed presidential vote had not been rigged, sternly warning protesters of a crackdown if they continue massive demonstrations demanding a new election. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei sided with hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and offered no concessions to the opposition. He effectively closed any chance for a new vote by calling the June 12 election an "absolute victory." The speech created a stark choice for candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi and his supporters: Drop their demands for a new vote or take to the streets again in blatant defiance of the man endowed with virtually limitless powers under Iran's constitution. Pro-Mousavi Web sites had no immediate reaction to Khamenei's warning and no announcement of any changes in a protest planned for 4 p.m. Saturday. Khamenei accused foreign media and Western countries of trying to create a political rift and stir up chaos in Iran. Iranian leaders often blame foreign "enemies" for plots against the country, but Khamenei's comments suggest Iran could remain cool to expanding dialogue with the West and the offer of opening talks with Washington. "Some of our enemies in different parts of the world intended to depict this absolute victory, this definitive victory, as a doubtful victory," he said. "It is your victory. They cannot manipulate it." Khamenei said the 11 million v o t e s t h a t s e p a r a t e d Ahmadinejad from his top opponent, Mousavi, were proof that f r a u d d i d n o t o c c u r. Ahmadinejad watched the sermon from the front row. State television did not show Mousavi in attendance. "If the difference was 100,000 or 500,000 or 1 million, well, one may say fraud could have happened. But how can one rig 11 million votes?" Khamenei asked during prayers at Tehran University today.