Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Anti-US Rally in Iran over Alleged Koran Desecration

Agence France-Presse:
At least 1,000 Iranians in the holy city of Qom protested Wednesday over desecration of the Koran at the US detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, even though a story alleging the abuse has been retracted. The demonstrators, mostly students from Shiite Muslim seminaries, chanted "Death to America" and other anti-US slogans. Some were dressed in white shrouds as a symbol of their willingness to be martyred for the cause, an AFP photographer said. READ MORE

"The Bush administration must know it will be toppled for desecrating the Koran," hardline Shiite cleric Ahmad Khatami, who is no relation to Iran's reformist President Mohammad Khatami, told the rally.

He also described Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as "evil".

"Although the Americans have pledged to sort out the problem, they would be better off putting (US President George W.) Bush on trial," he said.

Qom, situated around 150 kilometers (93 miles) south of Tehran, is Iran's clerical capital.

The US magazine Newsweek on Monday retracted an article that said interrogators had thrown a Koran into a toilet to rattle Muslim prisoners at the detention facility in Cuba.

The report, which appeared in the May 9 edition, has sparked protests throughout the Muslim world. In Afghanistan 14 people were killed in anti-US protests last week.

Rice had described the Newsweek report as "appalling" and said it had created a "very major problem" for Washington in the Muslim world.

The reaction in Iran has been relatively muted, although last week Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi complained that "US officials should have reacted, expressed their outrage and punished those responsible much sooner."