Saturday, August 28, 2004

Hi Pakistan

Hi Pakistan: "Sistani returns like Khomeini: Rafsanjani

TEHRAN: A top Iranian cleric on Friday likened Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani's return to Iraq to end the stand-off in Najaf with the 1979 home-coming of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, which swept aside the US-backed shah. Influential former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani told worshippers at Friday prayers at Tehran University both cases showed Islam's "great power".

"Sistani's brave return to Najaf which ended the crisis is similar to our leader's return to Iran which ended the shah's rule," Rafsanjani said. Sistani, Iraq's top Shi'ite cleric, returned from Britain to be swept into the battered city of Najaf by thousands of followers and on Thursday persuaded radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army militia to leave a shrine and end a three-week uprising that has killed hundreds.

Khomeini made a triumphant return to Iran from exile in France in 1979 to be greeted by a sea of people and take charge of a popular revolution that overthrew the shah and overturned decades of powerful US influence on the ancient country. Rafsanjani, a key adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's most powerful figure, praised Sistani's "brave return", but he also hailed Sadr's Shi'ite Muslim militia for rising up against the US occupation.

"The heroic young people's 21 days of resistance with their bare hands and Sistani's political measures to end the crisis, both are popular and show the power of Islam's devotees." In remarks broadcast live on state radio, Rafsanjani accused the United States of igniting the uprising in Najaf. "It was widely pre-planned by Americans who wanted to intimidate their enemies," he said. "But it gave the opposite result.

They failed and suffered." Sadr met Rafsanjani in Iran last year at a memorial service for Khomeini, the founder of Iran's Islamic Republic. Shi'ite Muslim Iran opposed the war that toppled Saddam Hussein, despite its hatred of the former Iraqi leader, and has been incensed by US attacks on Shi'ite militia in Najaf.

Rafsanjani said the actions of the US military in Iraq would feed Muslim hatred against the United States and called on Washington to adopt "peaceful and rational methods". "By adopting rational methods there will be no more al Qaeda, Taliban, explosions or September 11 attacks," he said. "Your irrational and oppressive measures, naturally outrages some people who strongly confront you," Rafsanjani said."


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