'Kill Americans' Remark Distorted, Iranian Says

From Times Wire Services

Iranian Parliament Speaker Hashemi Rafsanjani on Wednesday withdrew his call for Palestinians to kill Americans and other Westerners, saying his comments had been distorted.

In an interview on Tehran Radio, Rafsanjani said he was "only analyzing" the Middle East situation and did not "mean to condone the killing of innocent civilians."

In his prayer sermon at Tehran University last Friday, Rafsanjani called on Palestinians to kill Westerners, hijack planes and bomb Western interests. He had said: "If for every Palestinian martyred in Palestine, they kill five Americans, Britons or Frenchmen outside, the Zionists would not dare continue these wrongs."

In the interview Wednesday with Tehran Radio, monitored in Nicosia, Rafsanjani said: "Of course, maybe my tone was such that it was taken to mean that I was recommending such action. Maybe my tone was such, but I meant it as an interpretation."

The United States and the European Community condemned his original remarks, and the Palestine Liberation Organization told him it did not need his "poisoned" advice.

Political analysts had described the Friday statement by Rafsanjani, the only candidate so far in Iran's presidential elections due in August, as a bid to prevent hard-line elements in the Iranian leadership from undermining his position.

Rafsanjani told Tehran Radio on Wednesday: "The statements I made were my own opinion. . . . Other officials may or may not agree with my opinions."

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