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The leader of Hizbullah, heading a march by hundreds of thousands of Shi'ite Muslims on Thursday, said US President George W. Bush and his secretary of state should "shut up" after they accused Syria and Iran of fueling protests over cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said that if the controversy touched on Jews or Israel the West would have reacted differently and quickly.
"Is the Islamic world less important than a bunch of Zionists? We cannot acquiesce to this."
Nasrallah urged Muslims worldwide to continue demonstrations until there is an apology over the drawings and Europe passes laws forbidding insults to the prophet.
The head of the guerrilla group, which is backed by Iran and Syria, spoke before a mass procession of Shi'ites marking Ashura, an annual remembrance of the 680 A.D. battle in which Hussein, their saint and grandson of Muhammad, was killed by rivals, cementing the split in Islam between Shi'ites and Sunnis.
Whipping up the crowds on the most solemn day for Shi'ites worldwide, Nasrallah declared: "Defending the prophet should continue all over the world. Let Condoleezza Rice and Bush and all the tyrants shut up. We are an Islamic nation that cannot tolerate, be silent or be lax when they insult our prophet and sanctities."
"We will uphold the messenger of God not only by our voices but also by our blood," he told the crowds, estimated by organizers at about 700,000. Police officers had no final estimates but put the figure at even higher.
Speaking about the controversy for the first time Wednesday, Bush condemned the deadly rioting sparked by the cartoons and urged foreign leaders to halt the spreading violence and to protect diplomats in besieged embassies. Rice, the US secretary of state, said Iran and Syria "have gone out of their way to inflame sentiments and to use this to their own purposes. And the world ought to call them on it."
"There can be no settlement before an apology and there can be no settlement before laws are legislated by the European Parliament and the parliaments of European countries," Nasrallah said.
Islamic nations should demand "a law committing the press and the media in the West that proscribes insulting our prophet. If this matter cannot be achieved that means [the West] insists on continuing this," he added.
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