Washington, D.C., September 10, 2004 - Grand Ayatollah Hussain-Ali Montazeri, Iran's most senior dissident Shi'ite cleric, condemned the actions of radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in Iraq during an interview with the Voice of America today.
In a faxed response to VOA's Persian Service, the Grand Ayatollah from the city of Qom charged that al-Sadr "wants to be the Khomeini of Iraq." He disparaged al-Sadr's religious authority and said that he believes al-Sadr "apparently has had some help from Iran" which hoped to have a "hand" in Iraq through al-Sadr. Montazeri, citing the common interests of religion, history and a shared border, believes that Iran should have peaceful relations with Iraq and work towards establishing peace there.
On the topic of U.S.-Iran relations, Montazeri added that he believes that in an era of global political and economic cooperation, the absence of relations between these two countries works against both of them. The United States and Iran should establish relations, he argued, while respecting each other's sovereignty.
Grand Ayatollah Montazeri was once the heir apparent to the late Grand Ayatollah Khomeini, the leader of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, but subsequently was removed by Khomeini one year before his death. Montazeri was later placed under house arrest in 1997 after he criticized Khamenei.
The written response aired on today's VOA Persian radio broadcast and will air again tomorrow (September 11, 2004) on VOA's Persian language TV show News and Views. VOA broadcasts three Persian-language TV programs to Iran. News and Views is a daily, 30-minute television news show broadcast via satellite to audiences in Iran; Next Chapter is a weekly youth newsmagazine show, and Roundtable With You is a weekly 90-minute discussion show. These shows complement VOA Persian's daily radio service and Radio Farda, a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week, youth oriented radio program that is a joint project of VOA and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
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