UPDATE 1030 GMT: President Rouhani responded on Saturday morning to the warning from Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami in the Tehran Friday Prayer:

Tehran Friday Prayer leader Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami (pictured) used yesterday’s sermon to put out another warning to President Rouhani: Stop initiatives for cultural openness and to reduce interference in people’s private lives.

Without naming Rouhani, Ayatollah Khatami summarised the President’s argument: “A respected official has said that people cannot be put on heaven’s path by force….He has said that our school is the school of logic and reasoning. We will show the path and distinguish between the right and wrong paths, and this has been the way of the Prophet.”

The cleric then countered:

The official is right in saying that when a tribe refused Islam, the prophet did not force them to become Muslims but sent teachers of the Quran.

However, if this means that we should leave people to do whatever they want and leave the people free in all moral, political and economic matters to break all limits set by God, this is not supported by anyone in the Islamic regime.

Rouhani has been embroiled in a fight with hardliners who have denounced his campaign promises on issues such as the freeing of political prisoners, the opening up of the Internet, and reduced intervention by security forces in Iranians’ private lives.

The President said last Saturday that people should be allowed to live in peace, adding that no one can be forced into heaven under the lashes of a whip.

Ayatollah Khatami spoke on Friday about the violations of the code of hijab (covering of the head) by women and about men and women attending concerts together. He advised, “We say the government is responsible for smoothing the road to heaven for its people.”