TEHRAN - Iran's chief prosecutor has warned opposition supporters not to hold a rally next week, saying they can expect a response from "vigilant" Iranians if they do, the semi-official Mehr news wire reported on Wednesday.
Opposition leaders Mirhossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi have applied to stage a rally on Monday in support of revolts in Egypt and Tunisia, hoping the uprisings there can revive their "Green movement" which was stamped out in the months following President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's June 2009 re-election.
Although the government is unlikely to permit a rally organised by people it considers "seditionists", many Iranians have said they may attend in any case. A Facebook page dedicated to the day has more than 20,000 followers.
It would be the Green movement's first demonstration since December 2009 when eight protesters were killed and more than 1,000 arrested, ending months of mass protests during which Iran witnessed the worst unrest since the Islamic Revolution of 1979.
Prosecutor General Qolam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei said that if Iranians want to show their support for protesters in North Africa, they should do so at nationwide government-sponsored rallies this Friday marking the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
"If a person really has the motivation to support the heroic people of Egypt and Tunisia, he will join the rally of Bahman 22 (Feb. 11) along with the nation and the government," Mohseni-Ejei said.
"Setting another date means these gentlemen have distanced themselves from the people and created division. This a political act. But the people of Iran are vigilant and if necessary they will respond," he added.
Basij militia forces loyal to the government helped suppress Green movement protests in 2009.
In an interview with The New York Times, conducted via the Internet from his home where he said he was living under conditions close to house arrest, the 73-year-old cleric Karoubi said: "Next Monday will be a test for the Green movement.
"If the government issues a permit, there will be a huge demonstration and it will show how alive the Green movement is."
He did not say what might happen in the event the authorities deny permission, as seems likely.
Both sides of Iran's deep political divide have expressed solidarity with the North African uprisings that ousted Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and have put Egypt's Hosni Mubarak's 30-year tenure in jeopardy.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei described the uprisings as an "Islamic awakening", continuing the work started by Iranian revolutionaries who overthrew the U.S.-backed Shah in 1979 and established Shi'ite Muslim clerical rule. [ID:nLDE7130SB]
The Green movement leaders have said the Tunisian and Egyptian protesters borrowed slogans from their own 2009 protests against an election result they say was rigged, a charge the government denies.
Karoubi said a successful uprising in Egypt would win democratic freedoms that are lacking in Iran.
"It will show that Iran has been left behind, that it has not gone forward with the principles of the revolution that everything should be based on the vote of the people," he told The New York Times.
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