Iran calls on Arabs to shun Mideast meet


"The United States took the initiative for this meeting to save the Zionist regime (Israel), which received a beating at the hands of Hezbollah," during the war last year with the Lebanese Shiite movement, Khamenei told a crowd of hundreds of thousands at Iran’s Grand Mosque.

"Every conference that has been organised in the name of peace has harmed the Palestinians," he said, in a speech to mark Iran’s celebration of the Eid al-Fitr holiday that follows the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

"As the Palestinians themselves are not participating in this conference, how can the others (Arab states) do so," he asked, as the crowds chanted "Death to America" and "Death to Israel."

Khamenei made no reference to Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, who will be attending the US-sponsored meeting, expected next month, and who has been working in concert with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to prepare for the summit, aimed at seeking an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Instead, he spoke of the Islamist movement Hamas, which seized control of the Gaza Strip in June after bloody battles with security forces loyal to Abbas, and which has also called for a boycott of the peace talks.

Following the Gaza takeover, Abbas dismissed Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya and appointed a new government, which Hamas does not recognise, and whose power is limited to the West Bank.

Referring to Hamas, Khamenei said the "Palestinian people put in power a government that has made resistance its leading slogan and, despite all pressure, the Palestinian government and people continue to resist."

"I counsel our Palestinian brothers not to confront each other, because the enemy is in their house."

On Friday, Haniya warned Abbas against making concessions to Israel at the summit.

"There will be a new peace conference later this year, but this conference will bring great losses, not only for the Palestinian cause but the entire Arab and Muslim world," he said.

Haniya called on Abbas to "reject new concessions to the Israeli occupation, on the refugees, on the land, on Jerusalem, to our sacred right to that holy land."

He went on to accuse Israel of using the conference as a way of naturalising relations with Arab countries "without giving anything to the Palestinian people" and America of using the conference to advance its regional interests.

His remarks come with Israeli and Palestinian teams preparing the ground for the conference.

The Palestinians want a detailed agreement and timeframe for implementing solutions to the thorniest issues in the conflict, including borders, sovereignty over Jerusalem and the fate of 4.4 million refugees.

The Israelis want a vaguer document with core issues left to bilateral talks after the conference.

Turning his attention to the United States and Iraq, Khamenei said it "is incapable of assuring security, either because it does not want to or because it cannot. It is responsible for all of the humanitarian, political, social and economic catastrophes that have befallen Iraq."


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