Iran’s Supreme Leader has issued a thinly veiled warning to the new Libyan rebel government not to get too close to the West.
Speaking to thousands of worshippers taking part in Eid prayers at the end of Ramadan, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Libyans should not allow their victory to be “hijacked by enemies”.
Without mentioning any particular group by name, he referred to those who considered themselves the “owners of the uprising”. They were the same, he said, as those who used to “sit and drink with those who once suppressed the Libyan nation”, and were now looking to “take advantage of the situation”.
Iran has still not officially recognised the National Transitional Council, but this week has invited the head of the new rebel government to visit.
Relations between Tehran and Tripoli were soured after the disappearance of a prominent Shia Muslim cleric during a visit to Libya more than three decades ago.
Sheikh Moussa Sadr, who was born in Iran and remained a spiritual leader there despite taking Lebanese nationality, went missing in 1978, reportedly after a row with Colonel Gaddafi.
Libya always claimed the cleric left the country safely on a plane bound for Rome, but the Italian authorities denied that he ever arrived.
Moves towards improved relations could shed more light on the affair. Throughout the Libyan conflict Iran has adopted a dual approach; criticising both the Gaddafi regime for its attacks on the rebels, and NATO for its military intervention.