|Ahmadinejad addressed the rally and criticised the Middle East talks in Washington [Reuters]|
Thousands of Iranians have gathered in the capital, Tehran, to mark al-Quds day, the country’s annual Palestinian solidarity day.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s president, addressed worshippers at Tehran University in a live broadcast to mark the day on Friday, using the speech to criticise the relaunching of direct peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Washington.
He said the direct negotiations are doomed to failure and he urged Palestinians to continue with an armed struggle against Israel.
“What do they want to negotiate about? Who are they representing? What are they going to talk about?” he said of the Palestinian negotiating team.
“Who gave them the right to sell a piece of Palestinian land? The people of Palestine and the people of the region will not allow them to sell even an inch of Palestinian soil to the enemy. The negotiations are stillborn and doomed.”
His comments came a day after Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, and Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, held their first direct talks in nearly two years at a US-sponsored summit in the US capital.
Opposition leader ‘harassed’
Meanwhile, a hundred-thousand strong crowd chanted slogans and waved the Islamic Republic’s flags in the air as they rallied in the streets.
But Mehdi Karroubi, an Iranian opposition leader, was apparently prevented from joining the rally, his website said.
The Saham news website said members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard surrounded Karroubi’s home to prevent him from attending the gathering and that attackers from groups loyal to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, smashed windows of his house and beat up one of his security guards.
“They were shooting at the house,” Potkin Azarmehr, an Iranian blogger in London, said.
“From what I’ve heard, Ali Yari, the head of Karroubi’s body guards, was shot in the leg and then he was beaten up with truncheons and sticks. He’s in a critical condition in hospital at the moment.”
“I think this just goes to show that the regime is still scared of the Green [opposition] movement and that there is a Green movement still alive in Iran.
“Otherwise they would have let Karroubi attend the al-Quds parade.”
The government uses al-Quds day to show its support for the Palestinians, but last year Karroubi and other opposition leaders used the day to gather tens of thousands of their own supporters into the streets where violent clashes broke out with security forces.
Karroubi’s son, Hossein, told The Associated Press news agency that dozens of government supporters were continuing to damage the opposition leader’s home and that police were not responding to the scene.
Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi were two pro-reform candidates who ran against Ahmadinejad in 2009. Mousavi claims he won the election but that it was stolen from him through massive fraud.
Al-Quds day was started by the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini as a way of expressing solidarity with the Palestinians and underscoring Jerusalem’s importance to Muslims.