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Ahmadinejad links unrest to US, ‘Zionists’


Tehran : Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Tuesday blamed the latest unrest in his country on the US and Israel, the ISNA news agency reported.

“This is a play staged by the US and Zionists (Israel) which just makes us puke,” said Ahmadinejad in his first reaction to Sunday’s protests against him and his government.

“Both those who staged and those who acted in this play are making a mistake, as the Iranian nation has seen many such plays and will not be affected,” the president added.

He also accused the US and Britain of supporting the protesters and said the two countries would regret it.

At least four more people have been arrested in Iran after weekend opposition demonstration turned into unrest, opposition website Jaras reported Tuesday.

Detainees include Noushin Ebadi, the sister of 2003 Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi, and journalist Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, the website said.

Noushin Ebadi, a lecturer at the Tehran medical school, was arrested Monday night, apparently because of her sister’s human rights activities. Noushin Ebadi is a scientist, not a political activist, the report said.

Jaras denied rumors that former president Mohammad Khatami also had been arrested, saying that he was safe at home.

Opposition websites reported Monday that several aides of opposition leader Mir-Hossein Moussavi had also been arrested.

The Jaras report could not be independently verified because foreign media are banned from directly covering opposition activities and street demonstrations.

State media confirmed that at least eight people were killed in Sunday’s political unrest, including Moussavi’s 35-year-old nephew. However, Tehran prosecutor general Abbas-Jafar Dowlat-Abadi told reporters Tuesday that there had only been seven deaths, four of them due to accidents.

Police insisted they did not use firearms against protesters and would conduct autopsies to clarify the causes of death. The prosecutor said the body of Moussavi’s nephew had not been stolen, as claimed by opposition websites, but is in the coroner’s office for autopsy.

After Sunday’s clashes between authorities and demonstrators protesting Ahmadinejad, 300 people were arrested in Tehran. According to unconfirmed reports, as many as 500 were arrested in the central cities of Isfahan and Najafabad. Dowlat-Abadi refused to provide specific numbers.

Foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said the British ambassador would be summoned to the ministry because of “undiplomatic remarks” by Foreign Secretary David Miliband.

Miliband Monday criticised the Iranian governments’ actions against demonstrators.

Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki also warned Britain that, if the country would continue its “lies” against Iran, then Tehran would react harshly.

Similar remarks against Iran were made Monday by other European Union (EU) states and also by the US, where President Barack Obama condemned Iran’s actions and warned that the Islamic state would not succeed in denying people their universal rights.

Mottaki said the West should not support “a minority which vandalises and violates the law and does not respect the democratic process of elections”.

Mehmanparast said there “might be” some foreign nationals among those arrested, apparently referring to a Syrian reporter working in Iran for Dubai Media Inc.

“Maybe some of those arrested had tried to get media coverage (of the unrest), but such coverage should have been in coordination with the Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry,” Mehmanparast said, without mentioning the Syrian reporter by name.

Reza al-Bacha, 27, went missing Sunday during the clashes.

Because of the ban on foreign media directly covering protests, journalists found to be reporting on the unrest faced revocation of their press cards.

Dowlat-Abadi confirmed al-Bacha’s arrest, adding that the reporter would be released if the foreign press department confirmed al-Bacha had permission to report on the unrest.

State television meanwhile reported that supporters of President Ahmadinejad plan to hold a rally Wednesday afternoon.

There were also unconfirmed reports that they planned a sit-in-protest in front of Moussavi’s house until his arrest.

Iran’s parliament Tuesday called for the death sentence “on those who dared to insult the sanctities of the Ashura day”, referring to the annual ceremony marking the martyrdom of Shia Imam Hussein.

The opposition party Islamic Iran participation Front (IIPF), whose leaders and members are currently jailed, said in a statement Tuesday they respected the laws and were against any kind of violence.

The IIPF, which supports both Moussavi and Khatami, termed the militant measures by the government and the “political coup d’etat” following June’s presidential election as a sign of the government’s weakness.