Monday, October 31, 2005

Iran's President Shifts to Call for Palestinian Democracy

New York Times:


Published: October 31, 2005

TEHRAN, Oct. 30 (Reuters) - President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Sunday that the only solution to the Middle East conflict was democracy for Palestinians, after provoking an outcry last week by calling for Israel to be "wiped off the map."

The official IRNA news agency quoted him as saying that the best step would be political rather than military. "The only logical solution to solve the Palestinian issue is to hold free elections with the participation of Palestinians inside and outside the occupied territories and a recognition of the nation's legitimacy," he said after meeting with Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

When Iran uses the term "occupied territories," it usually means not only the West Bank and Gaza but the whole of Israel, whose right to exist Iran does not recognize. Mr. Ahmadinejad appeared to be calling for full democratic representation for Palestinian refugees and émigrés anywhere.

His comments on Wednesday brought sharp international criticism, including a rebuke from the United Nations Security Council.

He made them before an audience of 4,000 students at a program called "The World Without Zionism," in preparation for an annual anti-Israel demonstration held on the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan.

His tone at that program was reminiscent of that of the early days of Iran's Islamic revolution in 1979. Iran and Israel have been bitter enemies since then.

Senior officials had avoided provocative language in the past decade, but Mr. Ahmadinejad appeared to be taking a more confrontational tone than had recent Iranian leaders.

In his remarks on Sunday, he said, "I will ask U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to put on his agenda the formation of a democratic and legitimate Palestinian government." Mr. Annan is expected to visit Iran in the next week or two.

Several countries summoned Iranian ambassadors last week to seek assurances that Iran was not planning a military attack. The United States and Britain said Mr. Ahmadinejad's remarks added to fears that Iran was planning to build nuclear weapons.


Post a Comment

<< Home