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SERMON WARNS OF 'HARSH RESPONSE'

TEHRAN, Iran - Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned the reformist opposition Friday it would face a "harsh response" for confronting the Islamic establishment.

Khamenei's tough warning, in a nationally televised prayer sermon, comes as security forces have increased pressure on opposition leaders, launching a series of raids that detained several of their top aides. In separate sermons, several hard-line clerics Friday repeated calls for the opposition chiefs to be arrested.

It was the second time that Khamenei has delivered Tehran's main sermon - a powerful political platform - since the disputed June 12 presidential election that sparked Iran's worst political turmoil in decades. The opposition says that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won the election by fraud and that the true winner was pro-reform candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi.

At least 72 people were killed in protests, the opposition says, though authorities have confirmed only 36 deaths.

Khamenei said peaceful differences and criticism of officials would be tolerated. But, he said, "confronting the system and drawing a sword against the system will bring a harsh response."

He also warned against protests on Friday, when the government organizes rallies in support of the Palestinians and against Israel.

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