Page last updated at 14:59 GMT, Saturday, 15 January 2005

Iran's Khatami raps US on rights

By Andrew Simmons
BBC News, Dakar

Iranian President Mohammad Khatami
US-Iran ties are also strained by doubts over Iran's nuclear activities

Iranian President Mohammad Khatami has attacked the US for criticising his country's human rights record.

On Friday, the US State Department expressed "grave concern" about court action being taken against the Iranian human rights campaigner Shirin Ebadi.

Mr Khatami claimed the US had no right to criticise Iran, citing what he called their "relentless killing" and abuses in Iraq's Abu Ghraib jail.

Mr Khatami was speaking in Senegal during a tour of African states.

Mr Khatami was responding to remarks by US State Department spokesman Louis Fintor, who said America was gravely concerned about a court summons issued in Tehran against Ms Ebadi, a civil rights lawyer.

The summons did not specify why she was ordered before Iran's revolutionary court.

'Support for atrocities'

The US has said it will monitor closely the action against Ms Ebadi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003 for her campaign work.

But Mr Khatami said the US was in no position to criticise Iran on human rights.

"Now they must respond to the crimes committed in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and their relentless killing of people in all parts of the world in the name of freedom and democracy and the support they provide to the brutalities and atrocities committed against the Palestinian people," he said.

Ms Ebadi has clashed with Iranian authorities repeatedly over her defence of dissidents.

Shirin Ebadi, Iranian Nobel winner
Ebadi says she was told to "provide explanations" to court or face arrest

The Iranian president said he had given her assurances that she can live safely in Iran.

"As the head of state, I personally guarantee her safety and her freedom to continue her activities," he said.

"With regard to her being summoned to the court, I think there is no problem, there is no significant problem. She is a well-known lawyer in the country.

"I think nothing has been done to create a problem for her and she is capable enough to defend herself in the courts."

Ms Ebadi has said the court summons was unlawful because there was no detail of any allegations against her.

Mr Khatami did not disclose why the action had been taken.

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