Published on Wednesday, August 14, 2002 by Reuters
Iran's Khamenei Says Bush Talks Like Hitler
by Jon Hemming
TEHRAN - Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused President Bush Wednesday of using the same language as Adolf Hitler to bully the world.
Khamenei, the most powerful man in Iran, has been opposed to any rapprochement with Washington, which in turn has branded Iran part of an "axis of evil" for allegedly pursuing weapons of mass destruction, backing terrorism and sheltering fleeing al-Qaeda fighters.
"Arrogance has drawn the bullying West into disgrace," the official IRNA news agency quoted Khamenei as saying, "and the president of a country which claims to support human rights and freedom speaks the same language to the people of the world as Hitler used."
Iranian leaders have been at odds about how to respond to the American accusations. President Mohammad Khatami's reformist allies have called for dialogue with Washington to ward off possible military attack, but hard-liners led by Khamenei have quashed such talk.
Khamenei is both Iran's spiritual leader and the final authority on matters of state.
His comments come in the wake of news that Iran has surrendered 16 suspected al Qaeda fighters to Saudi Arabia in the knowledge that any intelligence gleaned from their interrogation would be passed to the United States, its ally.
Al Qaeda, led by Osama bin Laden, is believed by Washington to be responsible for last September's airliner attacks on Washington and New York.
Iranian reformist analysts saw the handover as a sign that the Islamic Republic was seeking to mollify Washington amid signs that it is gearing up for an attack on neighboring Iraq to topple President Saddam Hussein.
With a U.S.-friendly government in Afghanistan to the east, Iran is wary of another pro-Western state emerging in Iraq, to the west. Many in Tehran fear Iran could be next on the hit-list of Bush's "war on terror."
Khamenei's defiant words appeared to offer no hope of an improvement in relations between Tehran and Washington, which have been enemies ever since radical students stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979 and held dozens of diplomats hostage for 444 days.
A government spokesman Wednesday also denied there was any link between the handover of al Qaeda suspects to Saudi Arabia and any attempt to curry favor in Washington.
"A number of foreigners who illegally crossed into Iran were arrested and the relevant embassies were informed," Abdollah Ramazanzadeh told a news conference.
"Those arrested included individuals from European, Arab and African countries. The number was higher than 16."
Copyright 2002 Reuters Ltd