AFP: Hardline Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused the United States and Israel on Tuesday of staging an anti-government protest in which at least eight people died, saying it was a "nauseating play." By Hiedeh Farmani
TEHRAN (AFP) — Hardline Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused the United States and Israel on Tuesday of staging an anti-government protest in which at least eight people died, saying it was a "nauseating play."
His talk of a theatrical piece "commissioned and sold out" by the country's two arch-foes, came as Iran's conservative parliament called for opposition demonstrators to be given maximum punishment.
"Iranians have seen lots of these games," the president was quoted by state news agency IRNA as saying.
"Americans and Zionists are the sole audience of a play they have commissioned and sold out. A nauseating play is performed."
Meanwhile, speaker Ali Larijani said on television that "parliament wants the judiciary and intelligence bodies to arrest those who insult religion and impose the maximum punishment on them without reservation."
Parliament also condemned "disgusting comments" by Western governments about Sunday's unrest, after they unanimously denounced the deadly crackdown in the Islamic republic. Related article: Recent key events in Iran. "
In that vein, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki lashed out at Britain on Tuesday,
"If they (the British) do not stop their absurd comments, they will be slapped in the mouth," Mottaki said according to ISNA news agency.
The comment came as Tehran summoned British envoy Simon Gass over criticism and a pro-government website said a Briton was among those arrested at the demonstrations.
"The British ambassador was summoned to the foreign ministry and the Islamic Republic's protest was submitted regarding this country's interference in our internal affairs," Fars news agency said.
On Monday, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband had hailed the "great courage" of Iranian opposition supporters.
In London, the foreign office said Gass had "responded robustly… and reiterated (Miliband's) comments that the Iranian government must respect the human rights of its own citizens.
People had taken to the street on the holy day of Ashura, which commemorates the 7th century murder of Shiite Islam's holiest martyr, Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Muslim Prophet Mohammed.
Eight people were killed as security forces used teargas, batons and eventually live rounds to push back thousands who had taken to the streets.
Hardliners have reacted angrily to what they see as "desecration" of Ashura by opposition supporters and have staged counter-demonstrations calling for tough action against protesters, state media reported.
The opposition, meanwhile, has excoriated the authorities for resorting to violence on Ashura, a day when custom prohibits it.
MPs accused the protesters of being "counter-revolutionaries" and "anti-religion."
But they took a softer stance towards opposition leaders, who reject Ahmadinejad's June re-election as fraudulent, urging them to distance themselves from the protests.
"We expect these gentlemen who had complaints in the election to wake up and clearly separate their path from this wicked movement, not to come out and issue statements again and make the air dustier."
In a defiant reaction, Iran's leading reformist party condemned violence against demonstrators and backed the protests.
The Islamic Iran Participation Front, which is allied with opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, called on the government to "reconcile with protesters and stop breaking the law, deception and tyranny."
Leniency did not extend to the sister of Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi, who said intelligence agents had arrested her sister, medical professor Nooshin Ebadi, on Monday.
"She is not an activist and her arrest is in fact new pressure to stop my human rights work," Ebadi said in a statement carried by the Rahesabz opposition website.
Iran rounded up scores of opposition figures and dissidents after Sunday's protests and on Tuesday several reformist journalists and activists were arrested, reports said.
The Iranian judiciary confirmed that an Iran-based Syrian journalist for Dubai TV had been arrested on Sunday.
US President Barack Obama demanded on Monday that Iran free those protesters it had detained and told the opposition that history was on its side.
In other developments, police said it was "terrorists" who had killed the nephew of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi on Sunday in an incident unrelated to the riots that day.
On Monday the Iranian authorities said they were carrying out forensic tests on five of the eight people confirmed killed, preventing their swift burial in accordance with Islamic tradition.