Sunday, November 14, 2004

Iranians Mourn Arafat on Al-Quds Day

Iranians Mourn Arafat on Al-Quds Day: "Iranians Mourn Arafat on Al-Quds Day

Amir Paivar

Reuters, Arab News

TEHRAN, 13 November 2004 — Tens of thousands of Iranians, some dressed as suicide-bombers, flooded the streets of Tehran yesterday, burning US and Israeli flags to mark annual anti-Israel day and mourn Yasser Arafat.

Demonstrators shouted “Death to America, Death to Israel” at the state-sponsored rally attended by most of Iran’s senior officials, including President Mohammad Khatami.

“Because they couldn’t control Arafat, they (Israel) poisoned him to death,” Ali Akbar Nateq-Nouri, a senior adviser to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told the crowd.

In Bahrain, tens of thousands marched in the capital Manama in a similar demonstration called by Shi'i clerics.

Arafat died in a French hospital on Thursday after falling into a coma. Officials from the Islamic group Hamas say he was poisoned by Israel — a theory which his private doctor did not rule out despite being discounted by the Palestinian foreign minister.

The Palestinian leader was the first major figure to visit and recognize the Islamic Republic of Iran after the 1979 Islamic revolution led by Ayatollah Khomeini.

Khomeini rewarded Arafat by handing over the Israeli Embassy in Tehran to the Palestinians and designating the last Friday of Ramadan “Jerusalem Day” when anti-Israeli rallies are held throughout the country.

A picture of Arafat’s meeting with Khomeini hung below a Palestinian flag at half-mast at the embassy building yesterday.

Many demonstrators carried banners accusing Israel of being behind a number of grand conspiracies.

“Do you know man’s trip to moon by Americans is a sheer lie fabricated by Zionists to humiliate other nations?” read one banner.

Support for the Palestinian cause is a central pillar of Iran which officially refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist.

Tehran denies accusations it trains and arms Palestinian resistance groups and has softened its stance in recent years, saying it would not prevent a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict if that is what Palestinian people want.

Influential former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani denied that Iran was anti-Semitic.

“Israel is a fake state ... we don’t support anti-Semitism, we support the fight against Zionism,” Rafsanjani told worshippers at Friday Prayers in Tehran.

Iran’s top dissident cleric Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri said the solution to the Middle East conflict lay in negotiations.

“The great Palestinian nation should resolve the conflict through dialogue and negotiation, while preserving its unity,” Montazeri said in a statement."