- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 17, 2012

IRAN

Ahmadinejad warns against aggression on Iran

TEHRAN | Iran’s armed forces will make the country’s enemies regret any act of aggression against the Islamic republic, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned Tuesday as Iranians marked National Army Day with a military parade near the capital, Tehran.

Although Mr. Ahmadinejad did not specify any countries, such language by Iranian officials is a common reference to the West, especially the United States and Israel.

The harsh tone was typical of speeches for military events, but it contrasted sharply with a sense of cautious progress after the direct talks with world powers last week on Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

The remarks could leave Western officials confused by the mixed signals.

“Our armed forces will make the enemy face a heavy and shameful regret if they commit any aggression and violate Iran’s interests,” Mr. Ahmadinejad said in a speech broadcast live on state TV.

Neither the U.S. nor Israel has ruled out a military option against Iran’s nuclear facilities, which the West suspects are geared toward making nuclear arms - a charge Tehran denies, insisting its program is for peaceful purposes only.

Iran’s refusal to halt the uranium enrichment program has been its main point of contention with the West.

WEST BANK

Hundreds of Palestinians declare hunger strike

RAMALLAH | Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel launched a hunger strike on Tuesday, officials said, protesting their conditions and demanding an end to detentions without trial as the Palestinians marked their annual day of solidarity with the inmates.

About 3,500 prisoners refused meals on “Prisoners’ Day,” and 1,200 of them said they would continue with an open-ended hunger strike, according to Israeli prison service spokeswoman Sivan Weizman.

The hunger strike is one of the largest on record, said Sahar Francis of Addameer, a prisoner rights group.

Although it remained unclear how many will continue with the protest, they join 10 other Palestinian prisoners already on a hunger strike, including two who have been hospitalized after refusing food for more than 40 days, she said.

The days’ activities, which included protests throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip, coincided with the scheduled release of the longest hunger striker in Palestinian history.

Khader Adnan, who didn’t eat for 66 days, was set to be freed later Tuesday as part of a deal reached with Israel.

EGYPT

Fans proclaim innocence in soccer riot trial

CAIRO | Fans charged in connection with Egypt’s deadliest-ever soccer riot protested their innocence in the first session of their trial Tuesday, turning their anger on the police, who are widely believed to have collaborated in the killing of 75 members of a rival club.

Nine senior officers, including six police generals and a colonel, are among the 73 people charged.

Convictions would further fuel the widespread speculation that the country’s much-despised police force allowed the bloody Feb. 1 attack on a soccer fan organization with which they had a long history of rivalry.

Most of the defendants are fans of Al-Masry, the main sports club in the Mediterranean city of Port Said, where the attack took place.

The majority of the victims were fans of a rival team, Cairo’s Al-Ahly, a club closely associated with Egypt’s 2011 uprising.

“We will get them their justice or die like them,” defendants held in the courtroom cage chanted, fists pumping in the air as they referred to those killed in the riots.

The chants suggested they consider themselves scapegoats and the police the real architects of the crime. Some grieving mothers of the victims, dressed all in black, smiled tearfully and nodded in support.

Egypt’s police force is widely loathed. It is viewed as having been the front line of ousted President Hosni Mubarak’s regime against dissent and of having been dominated by corrupt and brutal senior officers.

Anti-police demonstrations in reaction to the Feb. 1 soccer riot led to at least 14 deaths.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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