Iran press split on Paris attacks, hardliners critical of France

Iran press split on Paris attacks, hardliners critical of France

Tehran (AFP) - Iran's press on Sunday largely condemned the jihadist attacks that killed 129 people in Paris and expressed sympathy for the victims, but conservative newspapers put the blame on France's policies in Syria.

In their first reactions to the events of late Friday, Iranian newspapers reflected the country's divisions between reformists and hardliners fiercely critical of the West.

Moderate President Hassan Rouhani had on Saturday condemned the coordinated assaults claimed by the Islamic State group as "crimes against humanity".

Condemning the "horror at the heart of Paris," reformist daily Shargh reported on a small vigil of Iranians who gathered outside the French embassy in Tehran late on Saturday.

In an editorial, reformist university professor Sadeq Zibakalam condemned conservatives for their "lack of sympathy" with France over the attacks and said more people should have attended the vigil.

Another reformist daily, Etemad, also condemned the attacks, saying: "The world is mourning with Paris".

But Etemad noted there had not been the same outpouring of global shock over Thursday's bombings in Beirut, also claimed by IS, that left 44 dead.

It condemned the "silence over the Beirut attack", which targeted a bastion of Shiite movement Hezbollah, a key ally of Iran.

Centrist pro-government newspaper Iran said the attacks "shocked and disgusted not only the people of France but the whole world," saying they were "a sign of weakness" as IS faces increasing defeats on the battlefield.

Ultra-conservative newspapers meanwhile suggested the attacks were the consequences of French policies, with some parroting conspiracy theories that claim IS is a creation of the West.

On its front page, hardline paper Javan featured an illustration of a masked jihadist with a gun and a machete standing at the top of the Eiffel Tower, waving a mixed flag of the United States and IS.

"Return to home," its headline said, quoting reports that some 200 French jihadists had returned to the country after fighting with IS abroad.

In Kayhan -- Iran's oldest and most-vocal hardline paper -- editor Hossein Shariatmadari repeated a conspiracy theory often cited in Iranian media that IS is a creation of the West and Israel under an operation dubbed "Hornet's Nest".

"Now the designers of the Hornet's Nest must await the return of the wasps to the real nest -- wasps that carry automatic rifles and grenades," Shariatmadari wrote.

Another ultra-conservative paper, Vatan-e Emrooz, came under fire on social media after it headlined its story on the attacks "Dinner is Ready" over a picture of a body covered in a white sheet and empty cafe chairs at one of the restaurants that was attacked.

"The West eventually tasted its own cooking in Syria," the newspaper wrote, prompting a backlash from Iranians like one Twitter user who wrote: "Damn the person who wrote the headline for this paper."