Iranian clerics lash out at Ahmadinejad for hugging Chavez's mother

Clerics from Qom describe the contact as 'forbidden', inappropriate behaviour and 'clowning around'.

Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, offers his condolences to the mother of late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, Elena Frias, during his funeral in Caracas on Friday. Presidencia / AFP / HO
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TEHRAN // Iran's top clerics today criticised President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for consoling Hugo Chavez's mother with a hug - a physical contact considered a sin under the country's strict Islamic codes.

The controversy follows a widely published photo showing Mr Ahmadinejad embracing Chavez's mother at the funeral of the late Venezuelan president.

Iranian papers today cited clerics from the religious centre of Qom who described the contact as "forbidden", inappropriate behavior and "clowning around".

The conservative clerics also condemned Mr Ahmadinejad's condolence letter to Venezuelans in which he called Chavez a "martyr" who will be resurrected and who will return to Earth along with Jesus Christ and Imam Mahdi, a 9th century saint revered by Shiites.