Iran General NewsFury at Iran president's broadcast

Fury at Iran president’s broadcast

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ImagePress Association: The Government has criticised Channel 4's decision to broadcast an Alternative Christmas Message by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The Press Association

ImageThe Government has criticised Channel 4's decision to broadcast an Alternative Christmas Message by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said the invitation by the broadcaster to the hard-line leader would cause international offence.

An FCO spokeswoman said: "President Ahmadinejad has during his time in office made a series of appalling anti-Semitic statements. The British media are rightly free to make their own editorial choices, but this invitation will cause offence and bemusement not just at home but amongst friendly countries abroad."

The decision to allow Ahmadinejad to deliver the Alternative Christmas Message on Thursday night has already angered human rights campaigners, Israelis and politicians.

Mr Ahmadinejad's anti-Western rhetoric and views on Israel and homosexuality have strained international relations between Iran and the West. The broadcast will go out at 7.15pm.

Campaign groups attacked the broadcaster's decision to air the speech, as "dangerous" and motivated by ratings.

Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor said: "In Iran, converts to Christianity face the death penalty. It is perverse that this despot is allowed to speculate on the views of Jesus, while his government leads Christ's followers to the gallows."

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell joined the attack, and called on the broadcaster to "pull the plug on this criminal despot, who ranks with Robert Mugabe, Omar al-Bashir of Sudan and the Burmese military junta as one of the world's most bloody tyrants".

Stephen Smith, director of the Holocaust Centre, said the message should be treated with caution. He said: "I think this benign message is deceptive. People need to be alert to the fact that this is a wolf in sheep's clothing."

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