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IRAN: Tehran mayor gives tough speech

February 13, 2009 |  7:08 am

Qalibaf_2 Tehran Mayor Mohammed Baqer Qalibaf is a tough-minded opponent of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It's no secret there's no love lost between the two, who ran against each other in 2005 presidential elections and might butt heads again in June.

But when it comes down to the nitty gritty -- loyalty to the Islamic Republic and opposition to the U.S. and Israel -- Qalibaf sought to prove today he's no liberal pushover in a pre-sermon speech at Tehran's Friday prayers.

After praising Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, he urged Iranians to resist their enemies but with "the least costs and with prudence and wisdom," a hard jab at Ahmadinejad, who many within Iran's circle of power say has needlessly alienated the world with his persistent questioning of the Holocaust.

Qalibaf said Iran's revolution had changed the character of the Middle East. "We remember that in 1960s during the reign of Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt, when Syrian, Iraqi and Egyptian armies united against Israel, they could not resist more than three days and even lost the Sinai desert to the Zionists," he said.

"But as soon as the Muslims in the region took inspiration from our revolutionary culture, the front against Israel changed," he said, a reference to the Summer 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Shiite militant group in Lebanon.

He said he had the "honor" to associate for years with Imad Mughniyeh, the Hezbollah military commander killed a year ago in Syria. "All these accomplishments of Muslims in the region are due to the blessing of jihad, martyrdom-seeking and the religiosity of the culture,” he said.

-- Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran.

Photo: Mohammed Bagher Qalibaf.

Credit: Kamran Jebreli /Associated Press

P.S. Get news from Iran, Gaza, Israel and the rest of the Middle East in your mailbox every day. The Los Angeles Times distributes a free daily newsletter with the latest headlines from the Middle East, including the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. You can subscribe by logging in at the website here, clicking on the box for "L.A. Times updates" and then clicking on the "World: Mideast" box.

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