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Iraqi shoe thrower wins hearts in Iran

  • Story Highlights
  • Journalist who threw his shoes at President Bush wins Iranian fans
  • Muntadhar al-Zaidi now calls his protest "ugly"
  • Shoe-throwing is a traditional insult in Arab culture
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The Iraqi journalist who hurled his shoes at President George W. Bush has won some hearts in neighboring Iran, where one cleric dubbed the act "the shoe intifada (rebellion)."

TV reporter Muntadhar al-Zaidi, shown in a file photo, faces a trial for his shoe-throwing protest.

Palestinian journalists protest Thursday in support of shoe-throwing Muntadhar al-Zaidi.

Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati -- leading Friday prayers in Tehran -- hailed journalist Muntadhar al-Zaidi's now-famous fling last Sunday, when Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki were holding a news conference in Baghdad.

His remarks -- reported by Iran's state-run Islamic Republic News Agency -- reflect the support many Middle East people have shown for al-Zaidi, an Iraqi correspondent for Egypt-based Al-Baghdadia TV.

"The shoe intifada in Iraq should not be overlooked easily," he said. "Well done to the Iraqi journalist for throwing the shoes at the U.S. president."

Speaking to worshipers at Tehran University, Jannati labeled the shoes "more valuable than crowns, medals and signs" and believes they should be place in an Iraqi museum.

The government of Iran and the United States have been bitter antagonists for decades. Video Watch Muntadhar al-Zaidi throw his shoes at Bush »

Iran has opposed the U.S. presence and policies in Iraq and the United States has accused Iran of backing militants in Iraq.

Jannati said the U.S. was trapped in a quagmire in Iraq and didn't know what to do about it.

"The shoe hurling by the Iraqi journalist had many messages which the world received and the Iraqi people, too, held demonstrations afterwards. People should support the Iraqi journalist," said Jannati, who believes shoes should be regular props in the anti-U.S. demonstrations in Iran and Iraq.

In the Indian capital of New Delhi, Iran's deputy foreign minister told reporters that the incident points to frustration in the elite levels of society with Bush's policies.

The minister, Mohammad Mehdi Akhondzadeh, said it was similar sentiments that led Americans to elect Barack Obama president.

Neither of al-Zaidi's shoes hit Bush, and the journalist was knocked to the ground, hustled out of the room and arrested by security officials.


As he was pushed to the floor, the reporter shouted out that his shoe-throwing -- a traditional insult in Arab culture -- was a "farewell kiss" to a "dog" who launched the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Al-Zaidi faces time in an Iraqi prison. The Iraqi government on Thursday said he had written a letter to al-Maliki asking for leniency and calling his actions "ugly."

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