Funeral in Iran for assassinated nuclear scientist

With popular discontent growing over economic hardship and, among some, the lack of political freedoms, the clerical elite has portrayed Western hostility toward Iran’s leaders and their avowedly peaceful nuclear energy programme as a spur to national unity and for suppression of dissident voices.

Ayatollah Mohammed Emami-Kashani told worshippers Ahmadi-Roshan’s assassination – the latest of several attacks blamed on foreign agents – should encourage voters not to heed opposition calls to boycott a parliamentary election on March 2.

Though dissenters cannot take part, the vote will be a first test for an increasingly fractured leadership since big street protests followed the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in August 2009 and since popular uprisings against autocracy hit Iran’s Arab neighbours, including ally Syria.

“The nation should wake up,” Emami-Kashani said in his sermon, repeating a warning by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that Iran’s Western enemies were plotting to use the election to destabilise the 32-year-old Islamic Republic. “We have the election coming up and, as the leader said, the enemy is planning for the elections. All the people should be united.”

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