TEHRAN, (AFP) – Iran proudly paraded its military hardware in Tehran on Friday under the gaze of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who used the event to again defiantly lash out at the West and Israel.
The display, involving thousands of military personnel, tanks and missiles borne on trucks, marked the anniversary of the start of the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war.
Ahmadinejad, in a speech broadcast on state television, said that Iran was using “the same spirit and belief in itself” shown in that war to “stand and defend its rights” today against pressure from world powers.
Iran is locked in a showdown with the UN Security Council over its controversial nuclear programme.
The West, led by the United States, has tightened the vice on Iran by implementing crippling economic sanctions, while US ally Israel — the Middle East’s sole if undeclared nuclear weapons state — has threatened air strikes on Iranian atomic facilities.
In his speech, Ahmadinejad also touched on an anti-Islam film made in America by an extremist Christian group that has fuelled violent protests around the Muslim world.
He said US government claims it could do nothing to censor the film was a “deception” exploiting the pretext of freedom of expression.
He called the film an Israeli-hatched plot “to divide (Muslims) and spark sectarian conflict.”
Ahmadinejad implicitly referred to his often expressed opinion that the Holocaust never happened to lambast the West for perceived selective censorship.
“They stand against a question about a historical incident… they threaten and put pressure on nations for posing the question while at the same time in regards to the obscenest insults to the human sanctities and prophets… they shout adherence to freedom (of expression),” he said.
Ahmadinejad’s stance challenging the facts surrounding the Holocaust is shared by Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is the country’s commander-in-chief.
Early this week, Khamenei told naval cadets: “In some Western countries, no one dares to question the unknown incident of the Holocaust or for that matter some of the morally obscene policies like homosexuality… but insulting Islam and its sanctities under the pretext of freedom of expression is allowed.”