By Ali Akbar Dareini
May 24, 2006
TEHRAN -- Iran closed a newspaper and detained its chief editor and cartoonist yesterday for publishing a cartoon that sparked riots by ethnic Azeris, the first such move since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to power last year.
The sharp response was a sign of the hard-line government's concern over any internal divisions amid its confrontation with the United States -- and suggested there were worries the United States may try to stir up trouble among Iran's ethnic minorities.
The indefinite closure of Iran, the state-run Farsi language newspaper, came after it published a cartoon of a cockroach speaking Azeri, the language of the country's largest ethnic minority.
Iranian officials quickly apologized for the slur and stressed the nation's unity in the standoff with the United States, which accuses Iran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons.
"It is clear that the evil hands of foreigners are making efforts to provoke tribal, ethnic and religious differences under the present circumstances," State Public Prosecutor Ghorban Ali Dorri Najafabadi told state press outlets.
"Our nation is vigilant and hates the United States," he said.
Oh good, I was worried you might start liking us after the twerp's letter.