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Page last updated at 14:03 GMT, Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Ahmadinejad gives festive speech

A clip from Iranian President Ahmadinejad's alternative message (Footage courtesy of Channel 4)

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will deliver Channel 4's alternative to the Queen's Christmas Day speech this year, it has announced.

He will be shown telling British viewers "the general will of nations" is for a return to "human values".

His speech, in Farsi with English subtitles, will be the channel's 16th alternative Christmas message.

Unlike previous years, it will be broadcast at night and not at the same time as the Queen's speech.

The message of seasonal goodwill is to be aired at 1915 GMT.

'Alternative view'

In his speech, Mr Ahmadinejad congratulates the people of Britain on the anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ.

As the leader of one of the most powerful states in the Middle East, President Ahmadinejad's views are enormously influential
Dorothy Byrne
Channel 4

He says that problems in society are rooted in the rejection of the message of the prophets of God, including Jesus.

And he criticises the "indifference of some governments and powers" towards the teachings of "the divine prophets".

Channel 4 head of news and current affairs Dorothy Byrne said: "As the leader of one of the most powerful states in the Middle East, President Ahmadinejad's views are enormously influential.

"As we approach a critical time in international relations, we are offering our viewers an insight into an alternative world view."

'Divisive denial'

But Stephen Smith, director of the Holocaust Centre in Newark, Nottinghamshire, criticised Mr Ahmadinejad's "benign" message as "deception".

"This message of so-called peace needs to be treated very carefully," he said.

A speech Mr Ahmadinejad gave in December 2005, in which he referred to the Holocaust as "the myth of the Jews' massacre", angered Jewish groups.

Mr Smith criticised "the fact that somebody who openly denies the Holocaust is given legitimacy on prime time television, someone who uses Holocaust denial to be divisive".

In spite of his ridiculous and often offensive views, it is an important way of reminding him that there are some countries where free speech is not repressed
Ben Summerskill
Stonewall

Mr Ahmadinejad has also been criticised for the treatment of gay people in Iran.

Last year, when asked in a visit to New York's Columbia University about the execution of gay people in Iran, he replied: "In Iran we don't have homosexuals like in your country."

Gay rights group Stonewall said Mr Ahmadinejad should "celebrate the fact that he can appear on television to give a message like this".

"In spite of his ridiculous and often offensive views, it is an important way of reminding him that there are some countries where free speech is not repressed," director Ben Summerskill said.

Channel 4's first alternative message was delivered by gay icon Quentin Crisp in 1993.

Others to have given the broadcast include French actress Brigitte Bardot, former X Factor judge Sharon Osbourne and TV chef Jamie Oliver.

Last year's message was given by Sgt Maj Andrew Stockton, a British soldier who lost an arm fighting in Afghanistan.


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The tradition of the Queen's speech
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