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Protests follow Iranian minister

Jewish Telegraphic Agency
September 26, 2000

LOS ANGELES—Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi was met by angry protesters during his four-day visit to Southern California last week.

More than 100 demonstrators, shouting "Death to the Islamic Republic" and "Kharrazi must go," threw eggs and plastic bottles at the luxury cars of guests arriving Saturday at an Orange County reception.

Inside the hotel, Kharrazi urged sympathetic listeners to lobby for the rights of Iranians anywhere. His tour of the United States, the first by a high-ranking official of the Islamic regime, embroiled him in demands for the release of 10 Iranian Jews sentenced as spies for Israel.

Two days earlier, Kharrazi ran into an even more emotional demonstration on the UCLA campus.

He was met by a crowd of some 200 Iranian expatriates, about evenly divided between Muslims and Jews. Many displayed pictures of relatives executed or jailed by the Iranian regime.

"All I want to know is why they executed my husband 12 years ago," said one woman, tears streaming down her face.

Others waved banners and placards demanding "Free Iranian Jews," "Down With the Terrorist Regime," "Free Iran Students" and "UCLA, Shame on You."

The crowd outside the James West Alumni Center, where some 100 carefully screened guests met with Kharrazi, was ringed on four sides by barricades and platoons of police and sheriff's deputies, reminiscent of the campus riots of the 1960s and '70s.

Invited guests who tried to run the gauntlet of demonstrators were greeted with shouts of "murderer" and "terrorist." Some were slapped, jostled and spat upon, until police in riot gear moved in with clubs and pepper spray.

Inside the West Center, Kharrazi told the audience that he didn't understand Western criticism of the trial of the 10 Jews, which he described as just and fair.

"They do not accept the Iranian Jewish trial, which is very arrogant," he said. "I do not understand when a government from the outside intervenes in the internal affairs of another country."

After the meeting, while most of the invited guests were led out a rear exit under police protection, one man confronted the demonstrators. He was pelted by a barrage of eggs at close range by Muslim protesters.

Two Iranian Jewish organizations, usually at loggerheads, were represented by their leadership and some members at the demonstration.

The mainstream Iranian American Jewish Federation, which usually prefers to work quietly behind the scenes, canceled a scheduled meeting with the foreign minister and urged its members to join the demonstration.

Sam Kermanian, the federation's secretary-general, expressed dismay at last week's reduced sentences for the 10, saying he had been assured that at least three of them would be released, while the others would receive substantially lower sentences.

Pooya Dayanim, spokesman of the more militant Council of Iranian American Jewish Organizations, charged that some Iranian Jewish students at UCLA, originally invited to the meeting with Kharrazi, had been suddenly "disinvited."

Phillip R. Trimble, UCLA's vice provost for international studies and overseas programs, said in a written statement that "UCLA respects and understands the concerns expressed by some people about Dr. Kharrazi's appearance on campus. However, his visit reflects one of the university's primary missions-to provide a variety of forums for voices addressing problems facing the world."

© JTA Inc., 2000. May not be reproduced without written permission.


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