Iranian Khamenei says Sweden is in ‘battle’ over Quran desecrations

DUBAI/STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Saturday that people who desecrate the Quran should face “the most severe punishment” and that Sweden “is engaged in a battle for war against the Muslim world” by backing those responsible.

Protests raged across Iran and Iraq after Sweden allowed the Quran to be burned under rules protecting free speech. On Thursday, protesters in Iraq burned down the Swedish embassy in Baghdad.

An Iraqi immigrant to Sweden burned a Koran outside a Stockholm mosque last month. Protesters in Sweden kicked and partially destroyed a book they called a Quran outside the Iraqi embassy in Stockholm on Thursday, but did not burn it as they had threatened to do, Reuters witnesses said.

Swedish officials deplored the acts but said they could not prevent them.

Iranian state media reported that Khamenei had asked Sweden to hand over those responsible for prosecutions in Islamic countries.

“All Islamic scholars agree that those who desecrate the Quran deserved the harshest punishment… The duty of this (Swedish) government is to hand over the perpetrator to the judicial systems of Islamic countries,” Khamenei said in a statement carried by state media.

Iran, which has delayed sending a new ambassador to Sweden, has also said it does not accept a new Swedish envoy.

“The Swedish government should know that by supporting the criminal who burned the Holy Quran, he has entered into a battle for war against the Muslim world,” Khamenei tweeted afterwards.

“They have created feelings of hatred and animosity towards them in all Muslim nations and many of their governments,” he said.

A Swedish government official was not immediately available for comment.

(Reporting by Parisa Hafezi in Dubai and Supantha Mukherjee in Stockholm; editing by Jason Neely and Nick Macfie)

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