Thursday, December 25, 2008

Iran Leader's Christmas Broadcast Denounced

Thursday, December 25, 2008; Page A16

LONDON, Dec. 24 -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is offering season's greetings to Christians in a British TV address and suggesting that if Jesus were alive he would oppose "bullying, ill-tempered and expansionist powers" -- an apparent reference to the United States and its allies. . Ahmadinejad's Christmas Day broadcast will be delivered on Britain's Channel 4 television, occupying a slot that provides an often controversial counterpoint to Queen Elizabeth II's traditional annual message, the station said Wednesday. A leading British Jewish body said it was appalled.

According to a transcript released in advance, Ahmadinejad says most of the world's problems stem from leaders who have turned against religion. The Muslim president doesn't refer to rival nations or leaders by name or mention Israel, despite his past calls to wipe it out.

"If Christ were on earth today, undoubtedly he would hoist the banner of justice and love for humanity to oppose warmongers, occupiers, terrorists and bullies the world over," Ahmadinejad said, according to the English translation of the Farsi-language speech. The broadcast will air with subtitles.

The United States, Britain and others suspect Iran of developing nuclear weapons, while Tehran insists its uranium enrichment program is intended solely for a civilian energy program.

Ties with Britain were further strained in 2007 when Iran held 15 British sailors and marines prisoner for 13 days.

The Board of Deputies of British Jews -- which represents the Jewish community in Britain -- said the broadcast was offensive. "To invite him to deliver a Christmas message, even a so-called alternative one, fills me with disgust," said the group's president, Henry Grunwald.

The Israeli ambassador to Britain condemned the speech as a "bogus message of goodwill."

"That [Channel 4] should give an unchallenged platform to the president of a regime which denies the Holocaust, advocates the destruction of the sovereign state of Israel, funds and encourages terrorism, executes children and hangs gay people is a disgrace," Ron Prosor said.

"Outrage doesn't begin to explain it," he said.

British human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell echoed the comments, saying the broadcaster was "aiding and abetting a tyrant."

No comments: