Iran's leader has blasted the West's publication of the prophet cartoons

The West's publication of the Prophet Muhammad cartoons was an Israeli conspiracy motivated by anger over Hamas' win in the Palestinian elections, Iran 's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said Tuesday.

Speaking to Iranian air force personnel, Khamenei the cartoons were a scandal, particularly as they came "from those who champion civilization and free expression."

The cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad have led to demonstrations, boycotts and attacks on European embassies across the Islamic world. They were first published in Denmark in September and then reprinted recently by numerous European newspapers in the name of free expression.

"The West condemns any denial of the Jewish holocaust, but it permits the insult of Islamic sanctities," Khamenei said.

The cartoons have offended many Muslims because most Islamic teachers forbid any illustration of the prophet and because several drawings depict Muhammad as a man of violence.

The caricatures amounted to a "conspiracy by Zionists who were angry because of the victory of Hamas," he said, referring to the Palestinian militant group that won a surprise landslide victory in last month's elections, reports the AP.

D.M.