Iran MPs Rage against Opposition as Obama Encourages Protesters

Furious Iranian lawmakers on Tuesday demanded the hanging of opposition leaders who called anti-government protests which left two people dead, saying they had been "misled" by Iran's arch-foes.

But in one of his most direct reactions to events in Iran, U.S. President Barack Obama offered encouragement to protesters, saying he hoped they would have the "courage" to keep expressing their "yearning for greater freedoms."

MPs singled out Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, who had called for protests in Tehran on Monday in support of Arab uprisings that quickly turned into anti-government demonstrations and ended in clashes with police in which several people were also hurt, including nine security force members.

Mohammad Khatami, former reformist president, also came under fire from conservatives for openly backing the opposition movement since disputed presidential elections in June 2009.

"Mousavi and Karroubi should be executed! Death to Mousavi, Karroubi and Khatami!" the lawmakers shouted in the house, state news agency IRNA reported.

They said the United States, Britain and Israel had orchestrated Monday's protests through the opposition leaders, who, according to parliament speaker Ali Larijani, were being "misled" by Iran's arch-foes.

"The parliament condemns the Zionists, American, anti-revolutionary and anti-national action of the misled seditionists," a visibly angry Larijani told the parliament.

"How did the gentlemen (Mousavi and Karroubi) ... fall into the orchestrated trap of America?" he asked.

"Should they not have been cautious given the support, pleasure and joy of America and Israel as well as monarchists and Monafeghin?" Larijani added, referring to the outlawed People's Mujahedeen of Iran (PMOI).

He also urged that a committee be formed to probe and "confront" the opposition movement.

But Obama defended the protesters and criticized the Iranian authorities, saying that unlike Egypt, Iran's response to protests has been "to shoot people and beat people and arrest people."

"And, you know, my hope and expectation is that we're going to continue to see the people of Iran have the courage to be able to express their yearning for greater freedoms and a more representative government," Obama said.

However, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei criticized the West during a meeting with visiting Turkish President Abdullah Gul, IRNA reported.

"The West has always humiliated the world of Islam, and any government that wants to go against this humiliation and show its power will face their (Western) opposition," he told Gul.

Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, a hardline cleric who often leads Friday prayers in Tehran, applauded the MPs and accused Mousavi and Karroubi of being "mohareb," or enemies of God, adding that they deserved the harshest of punishment.

"The chiefs of the sedition have reached the end of the road and it is time for (the authorities) to do their duty and judge and punish" them, he said in a statement carried by Fars.

Despite a strict ban on the rally, a heavy security presence and Mousavi and Karroubi being placed under de facto house arrest, thousands of opposition supporters took to Tehran's streets on Monday.

Riot police fired tear gas and paintballs at them in violent clashes, witnesses and websites said.

Kazem Jalali, member of the parliamentary commission of national security and foreign policy, told ISNA news agency two people were killed.

"In today's session that the commission held with the interior minister (Mostafa Mohammad Najjar), he told us that a number of popular and revolutionary forces were injured by gunshot and two persons were martyred," Jalali said.

Iran's deputy police chief Ahmad Reza Radan had earlier said that one person was killed, shot by members of an outlawed group. He also reported "some" people wounded, including nine security force members.

The anti-government protests were the first in Tehran since February 11, 2010.

Mousavi and Karroubi allege Ahmadinejad's re-election in June 2009 was massively rigged and in the months after the results called for protests which drew tens of thousands onto the streets -- shaking the foundations of the Islamic republic and angering its leaders.

Source: Agence France Presse

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