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Iran cleric says "time to export the revolution"

TEHRAN (Reuters) - A senior cleric urged Iran’s factions on Friday to end post-election infighting, suggesting they should focus on trying to “export the revolution” instead.

Ayatollah Mohammad Emami Kashani’s comments appeared to be an attempt to calm political tension inside Iran after its disputed election in June, which plunged the country into its deepest internal crisis since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

But any reference to exporting Shi’ite Iran’s revolution may stir unease in nearby Gulf Arab states, which are predominantly Sunni Muslim with Shi’ite minorities.

Iran’s late revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini coined the phrase “exporting the revolution.” Khomeini, who died in 1989, remains a figure much revered by all political groups, but such language is rarely used by Iran’s present-day leaders.

“In our Islamic society, if we want to hurt people’s prestige in our remarks ... then it would lead to a fire which hurts everyone,” Kashani told Friday prayer worshippers in Tehran, in a clear reference to domestic political feuding.

“It is now the time to export the revolution ... it is not the time to treat each other like this,” he said in a sermon broadcast live on state radio. “Such remarks cause damage to the Islamic society and prevent the export of the revolution.”

Kashani is seen as a moderate cleric who rarely makes politically controversial remarks.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s pro-reform opponents say the June 12 election was rigged to secure the hardliner’s re-election, a charge the authorities deny.

The vote’s turbulent aftermath exposed deepening establishment divisions, with hardliners accusing senior moderates of inciting street unrest in a bid to undermine the Islamic Republic.

When Khomeini was Iran’s supreme leader in the 1980s, Arab states in the Gulf and others were alarmed by references to “exporting the revolution,” which they saw as a bid by Iran to stir up revolt in their countries.

Iran has since tried to improve relations with Arab states.

Reporting by Reza Derakhshi; writing by Fredrik Dahl; editing by Dominic Evans