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Iran Supreme Leader Vows Not To Bow To Protests

Above: Supporters of Iran's defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi set burning barricades in the streets as they protest during a demonstration.

Iran's supreme leader said Wednesday that the government would not give in to pressure over the disputed presidential election, effectively closing the door to compromise with the opposition.

Iran also said it was considering downgrading ties with Britain, which it has accused of spying and fomenting days of unprecedented street protests over the vote.

"Neither the system nor the people will give in to pressures at any price," Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a meeting with lawmakers Wednesday.

"On the current situation, I was insisting and will insist on implementation of the law. That means, we will not go one step beyond the law," Khamenei said on state television. "For sure, neither the system nor the people will give in to pressures at any price." He used language that indicated he was referring to domestic pressures.

Opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi claims that hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stole the June 12 election through massive fraud. He has called for annulling the results and holding a new vote.

Mousavi supporters flooded the streets of Tehran and other cities after the vote, massing by the hundreds of thousands in protests larger than any since Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution. Security forces initially stood by and permitted the demonstrations.

Khamenei said in a stern sermon broadcast to the nation Friday that Ahmadinejad was the legitimate winner. He told opposition supporters to halt their protests and blamed the U.S., Britain and other foreign powers for instigating unrest.

The government then ramped up both the use of force and its rhetoric, beating protesters, firing tear gas and water cannons at them. State media say at least 17 people have been killed in the post-election unrest. Amateur footage of a 27-year-old woman bleeding to death from a gunshot on a Tehran street unleashed outrage at home and abroad.

President Obama on Tuesday used his strongest language to date to denounce the violence against election protesters, expressing outrage at "threats, beatings and imprisonments." But he stopped short of suggesting any formal action against the country.

He defended what he called the consistency of his response and attempted to explain the fine line the administration has been walking since election protests erupted: responding to the violence, but maintaining a "path" for Iran's engagement in the larger international community.

"But we also must bear witness to the courage and dignity of the Iranian people, and to a remarkable opening within Iranian society," he said. "We deplore the violence against innocent civilians anywhere that it takes place."

The U.S. is not the only government targeted for critical language by Iran's leaders. Iran's government accused Britain of using spies to foment the unprecedented street protests and Iran expelled two British diplomats Tuesday. Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced that two Iranian diplomats were being sent home in retaliation.

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