Iran says Pope’s speech 'in line with' US policy
Reuters | September 18, 2006
TEHERAN - Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Monday that Pope Benedict's remarks on Islam were in line with what he said was the United States' "crusade" against the religion, state television reported.
The Pope’s first big crisis since his election 17 months ago was sparked by a speech in Germany on Tuesday when he repeated criticism of the Prophet Mohammad by a medieval scholar who said everything the Prophet brought was evil.
"The Pope's remarks were the latest chain of the crusade against Islam started by America's (President George W.) Bush," Khamenei said in a televised speech.
"The Great Satan (United States) is playing its role in this issue."
Bush upset many Muslims after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001 by referring early on to the global war against terrorism as a "crusade", a term which for many Muslims equates with a Christian battle against Islam.
The White House quickly stopped using the word, expressing regrets if it had caused offence.
Washington cut ties with Teheran shortly after the 1979 Islamic revolution and pushes for UN sanctions on Iran over Teheran’s disputed nuclear programme.
Iran's most powerful figure, Khamenei said he was deeply saddened by the Pope's speech.
"Such remarks made by a senior Christian figure is deeply regrettable and surprising," Khamenei said.
The Pope said on Sunday he was deeply sorry Muslims were offended by him citing 14th century Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaeologus and said it did not represent his personal view.
Iranian government spokesman Gholamhossein Elham told a weekly news conference the Pope’s comments were a ‘good gesture’ but not enough, demanding a clearer apology as soon as possible.
"Mr. Pope's move to say that his remarks had been conveyed in the wrong way was a good gesture and a necessary explanation but it is not enough," he said.
The remarks outraged Muslims worldwide and sparked protests and attacks on churches in several Arab towns.
On Sunday, numerous religious seminaries in predominantly Shia Muslim Iran were closed and about 500 Iranian theological school students rallied in the holy city of Qom to protest at the lecture.