Iran leader: West cannot 'confiscate' Arab Spring

August 31, 2011 - 3:15 PM

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran's top leader warned the Arab world Wednesday not to allow Western powers and Israel to "confiscate" the region's pro-reform uprisings, in comments that appear to reflect the Islamic republic's unease about their standing in a profoundly altered Middle East.

Iran has tried to walk two paths since the pro-democracy rebellions began in February — lauding the popular revolts as modern-day heirs to Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution, while maintaining relentless pressure on opposition groups at home.

But Iran is at risk of serious political setbacks. Iran's main Mideast ally, Syria's Bashar Assad, is under growing international pressure for his fierce crackdown on anti-government protests.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in a speech broadcast on Iran's state TV to mark the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, reflected the added worries that the West and its allies could gain ground in the Arab Spring.

"Muslim nations in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Yemen or other countries need vigilance today. They should not allow enemies confiscate the victories they've achieved," Khamenei said. "They should not forget that those who have come to the scene in Libya (U.S. and NATO) today and consider themselves owners of the uprising are the same people who used to sit and drink with those who once suppressed the Libyan nation."

Iran's supreme leader, who has the final say on all state matters in Iran, urged Libyans not to allow the U.S. and its allies to dominate their country.

On Tuesday, Iran's Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said his country secretly provided humanitarian supplies to Libya's rebel National Transitional Council. Salehi said Iran had sent four medicine and food shipments to the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.

"Today they (U.S. and its allies) seek to take advantage of the situation. Nations must be vigilant and wakeful," said Khamenei.

But he made no mention of Syria, where Assad's regime is struggling to contain opposition forces.

In Iran's view, collapse of pro-U.S. governments in Egypt and Tunisia were strong blows to U.S. influence in the region and a new "Islamic awakening."

"Who thought American and Zionist agents in the region would fall one after the other?" Khamenei said. "This is the powerful hand of the Islamic nations,"

Iran has supported Arab uprisings, saying change of governments in North Africa shows a new Middle East is emerging that will doom Israel and break free of American interference.

Iran has sought to portray the popular uprisings as a replay of its 1979 Islamic Revolution which toppled the pro-U.S. shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, and brought hardline clerics to power.