Iran to Arabs: Now time to act over Gaza attacks

Iran’s president told the Arab League, which began a meeting on Wednesday, it must act quickly to end Israeli attacks on Gaza Palestinians adding that setting up a committee or making speeches was not enough.

But Mahmoud Ahmadinejad did not suggest specific action by Arab states, some of which non-Arab Iran has criticized for not doing enough to protect Palestinians after more than 380 deaths.

Israel’s attacks have prompted protests by Iran’s hardline students, particularly targeting Egypt’s mission. Cairo has been singled out mainly for not opening a border crossing with Gaza. Students have threatened to storm the mission.

Students broke into a British diplomatic compound on Tuesday. Iran has accused Western states of bias toward Israel.

“If the Arab League does not want to do anything today, when does it want to act?” the president told a rally in Zahedan in southeast Iran.

“Aren’t these oppressed Palestinians Arabs? So when should the capacity of the Arab League be used? The Arab League should act quickly,” he said in a speech broadcast on state television.

He added that setting up a committee and making speeches were not adequate and would let Israel to continue its actions.

Arab foreign ministers opened an emergency session at the Cairo-based Arab League on Wednesday. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said Cairo would propose a way to contain the current conflict to the ministers.

Ahmadinejad also criticized the U.N. Security Council, which he has often accused of being in the control of big powers such as the United States and its allies.

“Why don’t you issue resolutions?… Why don’t you even frown upon the Zionist regime (Israel)?” he said.

The Islamic Republic is embroiled in a row with the United Nations over its nuclear work that has led the U.N. Security Council to impose sanctions on Tehran for not halting work the West says is to make atom bombs. Iran denies the charge.

PROTESTS

An Egyptian diplomat said students had staged regular protests outside the Egyptian interests section in north Tehran since Monday, often preventing diplomats from going to work.

He said police had scuffled with demonstrators and had erected barriers on the road to the mission to try to prevent them reaching the premises. Iran and Egypt do not have full diplomatic ties but have interest sections in Cairo and Tehran.

Students also plan a protest on Thursday outside the Jordanian embassy, which like Egypt has a peace treaty with Israel, media reported. Two petrol bombs were thrown into the Jordanian compound on Tuesday without causing major damage.

Hardline student groups have written letters to the Jordanian ambassador and head of the Egyptian mission “giving them 48 hours to choose between clearly condemning Israel’s attack on Gaza or leaving Iran’s soil,” a newspaper reported.

Students also demanded Egypt open its border to Gaza, the daily Seda-ye Edalat said. Cairo sometimes lets wounded people and medical supplies through but Egypt’s border has been closed to ordinary traffic since Hamas took control of Gaza.

The newspaper said the deadline expired at noon on Thursday. It said if demands were not met students would “carry out their revolutionary duty as happened on 13th Aban, 1358,” the Iranian date when students stormed the U.S. embassy in 1979.

A group of students broke into a British embassy residential compound in north Tehran on Tuesday, and an Iranian news agency said they planted a Palestinian flag. Britain’s Foreign Office said all staff were safe.

(Additional reporting by London bureau, writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Katie Nguyen)

http://uk.reuters.com/article/burningIssues/idUKTRE4BT2SL20081231?sp=true