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Iran's President Challenges Arab League Over Gaza

President Ahmadinejad also took aim at the UN over Gaza inaction.
TEHRAN (Reuters) -- Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad has told the Arab League ahead of a senior-level meeting that it must act quickly to end Israeli attacks on Gaza Palestinians, adding that setting up a committee or making speeches was not enough.

But Ahmadinejad did not suggest any specific action by Arab states, some of which had been criticized by non-Arab Iran for not doing enough to help protect Palestinians after more than 380 had been killed.

"If the Arab League does not want to do anything today, when does it want to act?" the president told a rally in Zahedan in southeastern Iran.

"Aren't these oppressed Palestinians Arabs? So when should the capacity of the Arab League be used? The Arab League should act quickly," he said in a speech broadcast on state television.

He added that setting up a committee and making speeches was not adequate and would allow Israel to continue its actions.

Arab foreign ministers convened an emergency session at the Cairo-based Arab League on December 31, where later in the day hundreds of protesters shouting slogans in support of Hamas and the Gaza Palestinians clashed with riot police. Egyptian riot police beat protesters with batons after losing control of sections of a crowd that witnesses estimated at 1,000 people, many of them Islamists.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had said Cairo would propose a way to contain the current conflict to the ministers.

Egypt, which shares a border with Gaza, has often been singled out for criticism by Iranian protesters for not doing more to help Palestinians. Egypt, which has a peace treaty with Israel, and Iran, which does not recognise the Jewish state, do not have full diplomatic ties.

Ahmadinejad also criticized the United Nations, which the Iranian president has often accused of being in the control of big powers like the United States and its allies.

"To which nations does this United Nations belong? This [UN] Security Council is for the security of which part of the world?" he said. "Why don't you issue resolutions?... Why don't you even frown upon the Zionist regime [Israel]?"

Iran is also embroiled in a row with the UN Security Council over its nuclear program. The Security Council has imposed three sets of sanctions on Tehran for not halting nuclear work the West says is aimed at building bombs. Iran says its nuclear activities are peaceful.

The Gaza attacks has prompted several protests by students.

A group of students broke into a British Embassy residential compound in north Tehran on December 30, and an Iranian news agency said they planted a Palestinian flag. Britain's Foreign Office said all staff were safe and accounted for.