Western spies concocting Iran revolt?
Tehran: Western spies are conspiring to ignite an uprising in Iran by recruiting a candidate willing to set himself on fire in an anti-regime protest, the Islamic republic's volunteer militia warned on Sunday.
Basij commander Mohammad Reza Naghdi's accusation came as Washington and Tehran engage in a war of words over Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak's ouster under the weight of a popular uprising.
"Western intelligence agencies are searching for a mentally challenged person who can set himself on fire in Tehran to trigger developments like those in Egypt and Tunisia," Naghdi said, quoted by Fars news agency.
"They (the West) are very retarded and think by imitating such actions they can emerge victorious," said the powerful Islamist volunteer militia's commander.
Tunisia's uprising last month that led to the fall and flight into exile of president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was set off by the self-immolation in December of a young student.
Copycat acts of desperation followed in Egypt as well as other Arab countries in the days leading up to January 25, when protesters first took to the streets for daily mass protests against Mubarak.
The 18-day popular uprising in Egypt ended on Friday when Mubarak handed power to the military after 30 years of autocratic rule.
Tehran has come out in support of Arab uprisings but refused to allow its domestic opposition to hold a rally on Monday in support of the Arab uprisings that critics say is a ploy to stage an anti-government rally in Iran.
Iranian authorities crushed opposition rallies which erupted in Tehran soon after the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in June 2009.
Scores of people were killed and wounded, and thousands arrested in a crackdown by security forces and Basijis on protesters who charged Ahmadinejad returned to power through massive fraud.
Mubarak's ouster has once again led to arch-foes Washington and Tehran locking horns.
On Sunday, Iran's Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani accused the United States of hijacking the Egyptian revolution to meet the demands of Israel, the regional arch-foe of the Islamic republic.
"The statesmen of this country aim to seize the revolution of the Egyptians and nip it in the bud," Larijani said on state news agency IRNA.
"The Americans trampled the national dignity of Egypt, which is a great and educated country, by its cooperation with the Zionist regime," he said, as he led a rally of Iranian MPs in support of the Egyptian uprising.
"They now cheekily say that future democratic conditions in Egypt should respect the shameful Camp David treaty," he said, in reference to the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace accord.
"What kind of democracy is this which is shaped within an illegal military council by American orders?" he said, referring to Egypt's Army which has been handed transitional power and has vowed to honour international commitments.
While Tehran criticises Washington, US officials are hoping the Arab revolts spread to Iran.
"By announcing that they will not allow opposition protests, the Iranian government has declared illegal for Iranians what it claimed was noble for Egyptians," US National Security Advisor Tom Donilon said.
"We call on the government of Iran to allow the Iranian people the universal right to peacefully assemble, demonstrate and communicate that's being exercised in Cairo."
But Naghdi said his men, who were in the front line of crushing Iran's 2009 protests, were still "ready to sacrifice their lives" to defend the Islamic regime against an opposition which he likened to the "party of Satan”.
Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi has also warned the opposition off from holding a rally.
"Police and all of our (security) organisations have been told to confront those who do not abide by the country's law," he said, adding that some arrests had already been made of suspects linked to the "sedition leaders”.
Opposition leaders have not reacted to the ban but their websites posted calls from several groups urging supporters to gather in the capital and other cities on Monday.