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Robertson, Iran leader imply stroke was deserved

WASHINGTON -- Television evangelist Pat Robertson and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran may not agree on much, but both suggested yesterday that the severe illness of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was deserved.

Speaking on his Christian Broadcasting Network's ''700 Club," Robertson said God was punishing Sharon for dividing the land of Israel. Sharon, who engineered Israel's pullout from the Gaza Strip last year, suffered a massive stroke Wednesday.

''Sharon was personally a very likable person, and I am sad to see him in this condition, but I think we need to look at the Bible and the Book of Joel. The prophet Joel makes it very clear that God has enmity against those who 'divide my land,' " Robertson said.

Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, said Robertson's comments violated ''simple human decency" and were ''profoundly offensive."

Ahmadinejad, elected in June, previously made headlines by calling the Holocaust a myth. ''Hopefully, the news that the criminal of Sabra and Chatilla has joined his ancestors is final," he was quoted by the Iranian press as saying yesterday. An Israeli commission found Sharon indirectly responsible for the massacre of Palestinians by Christian Phalangist soldiers during the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon.

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