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Ahmadinejad's Christmas message

Iran's president sends greetings in a British TV video, but says Jesus wouldn't approve of the West's leaders.

December 25, 2008|Borzou Daragahi

BEIRUT — Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wishes the world a merry Christmas, even though he thinks much of it is in crisis because the West's "bullying, ill-tempered and expansionist" leaders have strayed far from Jesus' path.

In a recorded message to air Christmas Day on Britain's Channel 4, Ahmadinejad praises Christianity but goes on to say that if Jesus returned to Earth, "he would fight against the tyrannical policies of prevailing global economic and political systems."

Ahmadinejad didn't say specifically what he meant, but presumably he was referring to the policies of the United States and West European countries, which have imposed economic sanctions on Iran to try to force it to shut down its nuclear enrichment program.

The Iranian president was invited to speak to the British public as part of the channel's annual "Alternative Christmas Message," following an address to the nation by Queen Elizabeth II. Previous alternative Christmas guests have included the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the cast of the animated series "The Simpsons." There appeared to be little public reaction in Britain on Wednesday to the fact that Ahmadinejad would give this year's address.

Ahmadinejad, a loquacious leader who relishes the media limelight, recorded the six-minute greeting Tuesday in Tehran.

"As the leader of one of the most powerful states in the Middle East, President Ahmadinejad's views are enormously influential," news chief Dorothy Byrne said in a statement posted to Channel 4's website, www.channel4.com, which will webcast the speech. "As we approach a critical time in international relations, we are offering our viewers an insight into an alternative world view."

Although Ahmadinejad and his government have called for Israel's end, the president's Muslim faith recognizes both Christian and Jewish prophets and texts that predate Islam.

Ahmadinejad's message, in Persian with English subtitles, includes warm yuletide greetings and wishes of "happiness, prosperity peace and brotherhood for humanity" on the occasion of Jesus' birth. Ahmadinejad mentions neither the United States nor Israel, according to a translated transcript of the speech obtained by The Times.

But his message also is barbed with a critique of the West, saying that "crises in society, the family, morality, politics, security and the economy" have come about because unnamed world leaders have forsaken Jesus' role as "the standard-bearer of justice, of love for our fellow human beings of the fight against tyranny, discrimination and injustice."

He also says that if Jesus returned he would oppose "warmongers, occupiers, terrorists and bullies the world over."

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daragahi@latimes.com

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