Ayatollah Calls for Calm, Denies Ballot Fraud
'Zionists' and BBC are exploiting protests, Khamenei says
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 19, 2009 4:32 AM CDT
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei gives a rare public address in Tehran, Friday, June 19, 2009.   (AP Photo/IRIB)
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(Newser) – The supreme leader of Iran called for "peace and tranquility" in his first public speech since the contested presidential election, Al Jazeera reports. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei defended the legitimacy of the vote and told protesters to stop, notes the New York Times. "Street challenge is not acceptable," he said, adding that opposition leaders would be "held responsible for chaos." He blamed "Zionists, evil media" for trying to exploit divisions.

The ayatollah insisted that "the election was a big celebration of the revolution" and that "the issue is inside the system." Khamenei's sermon comes amid growing talk of a rift between the supreme leader and Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former president who leads the powerful Assembly of Experts. But in his address Khamenei insisted that while "I do have some difference with him," Rafsanjani was "at the service of the revolution."