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Arab papers slam foreign criticism of Iran spy trial

DUBAI, July 3 (Reuters) - Newspapers in two Gulf Arab states have slammed Western criticism of the verdicts in the Jewish spy trial in Iran and lauded what they said was a fair judicial process.

Editorials in newspapers in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) since Saturday's verdict voiced rare support for Iran by its Gulf Arab neighbours, who are key Western allies in the oil-rich region.

The Gulf states and Iran have moved in recent years to restore trust between them but relations remain hampered by a territorial dispute between the UAE and the Islamic republic.

``The crocodile tears being shed on the Iranian Jewish spies...is part of the political trend that always keeps this country (Israel) above all considerations,'' the UAE's al-Khaleej said on Monday.

``(U.S. President) Bill Clinton was shaken personally and European capitals expressed regret over judicial sentences that should be respected in all countries as an internal affair, but the West as usual has no consideration to any laws that touch that country (Israel),'' it added.

It said Iran ``did its best not to give death sentences...and said there was still an appeal process, but this had no effect on Israel nor on those protecting it at the White House....''

A Revolutionary Court in the southern Iranian city of Shiraz on Saturday sentenced 10 Iranian Jews to between four and 13 years in prison on charges of spying for Israel. Three other Jews were acquitted.

The court also jailed two Moslems for collaboration and acquitted two other Moslems.

The trial and the verdicts prompted a storm of criticism of Iran, tempered with relief that no death sentences were handed down.

Qatar's al-Raya daily said the criticism ``contradicts the attempts by many Western countries including the United States to improve relations and open a new page with Iran and contradicts the democracy adopted by the West.''

``Why do those people forget that Moslems stood trial along with the Jews and that some Jews were acquitted?,'' it asked.

``We stand with Iran and the measures it took...and we reject any form of threats, interference in Iran's internal affairs or casting doubts over its judicial process,'' al-Raya said.

Qatar's Asharq said the criticism ``deviated from diplomatic language and international relations and was made in provocative tones that deprive Iran of its rights to put citizens on trial.''

It said the criticism ``revealed the extent of the Western support for Zionism.''


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