Ahmadinejad: Middle East talks ‘doomed to fail’

Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on Friday launched an angry attack on “doomed” US-brokered Middle East peace talks and urged the Palestinians to continue armed resistance to Israel.

Ahmadinejad used the annual al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day rally in Tehran to scorn the Obama administration’s efforts in launching the first Arab-Israeli negotiations in nearly two years.

“What do they want to negotiate about? Who are they representing? What are they going to talk about?” the hardline Iranian leader said of the Palestinian negotiating team in Washington.

“Who gave them the right to sell a piece of Palestinian land? The people of Palestine and the people of the region will not allow them to sell even an inch of Palestinian soil to the enemy. The negotiations are stillborn and doomed.”

Iran supports Hamas, the Islamist Palestinian movement that controls the Gaza Strip and opposes talks by Mahmoud Abbas, the Western-backed PLO leader who is based in the West Bank. Its armed wing claimed responsibility for killing four Israeli settlers near Hebron on Tuesday. Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other groups have vowed to carry out more attacks.

“The fate of Palestine is determined in Palestine and through the resistance of the Palestinian people, rather than in Washington, Paris and London,” Ahmadinejad said in his live TV broadcast.

Iran’s al-Quds Day event was founded in 1979 to mark the solidarity of the Islamic revolution with the Palestinians, and is held on the last Friday of Ramadan.

Iranian state media reported that millions of people turned out in Tehran and elsewhere for al-Quds rallies. But the regime took pre-emptive measures to silence opposition supporters who have managed to exploit previous official holidays to show their defiance. The few foreign journalists based in Iran operate under severe restrictions.

Mehdi Karroubi, one of the two reformist candidates defeated by Ahmadinejad in last summer’s presidential race, was prevented from joining the Tehran rally. Karroubi’s website reported that Revolutionary Guardsmen and basij militiamen had surrounded his home while supporters of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, smashed windows and beat up one of his guards.

Mir-Hossein Mousavi, leader of the defeated Green movement — who claims his victory was “stolen” by Ahmadinejad — condemned the attack. He said it proved the government’s “enmity against Israel is an excuse” for attacking opposition leaders. “Karroubi and figures like him and other freedom-seekers are the real enemies of authoritarians,” he said.

Iran’s opposition has not managed to hold any big demonstrations in recent months. Last February, it cancelled plans for a rally on the anniversary of the 1979 revolution. Since the election, the authorities have detained thousands and tried scores on charges of fomenting unrest, with more than 80 sentenced to prison and 10 to death.

The chief of staff of the Iranian armed forces, Hassan Firouzabadi, warned meanwhile that Iran would retaliate against Israel’s nuclear facility if Israel attacked its nuclear activities.

“Our developed weapons can hit any part of the Zionist regime [Israel] … We hope not to be forced to attack their nuclear facility,” Firouzabadi told the semi-official Mehr news agency.

Iran denies it intends to build nuclear weapons but is under UN sanctions to force it to stop enriching uranium. – guardian.co.uk

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