Archive for Saturday, December 10, 2005

Iranian president’s Israel comments draw more criticism

December 10, 2005


— Saudis fumed Friday that Iran's hard-line president marred a summit dedicated to showing Islam's moderate face by calling for Israel to be moved to Europe, and the chief U.N. nuclear inspector said he was losing patience with the Tehran regime.

Even some of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's conservative allies in Iran were growing disillusioned, fearing he has hurt the country with his wild rhetoric. Iranian moderates also called on the ruling clerics to reel him in.

"The president has to choose his words carefully. He can convey his message to the world in better language tone," Hamid Reza Taraqi, a leader of a hard-line party, the Islamic Coalition Society, told The Associated Press.

The United States, Israel, Europe and Iranian ally Russia condemned Ahmadinejad over his remarks about Israel, made Thursday on the sidelines of the Mecca, Saudi Arabia, summit of more than 50 Islamic nations intending to show a Muslim front against terrorism.

Hours before the participants issued the summit's centerpiece - the Mecca Declaration, promising to stamp out extremist thought - Ahmadinejad spoke at a news conference, casting doubt on whether the Holocaust took place and suggesting Europe give land for a Jewish state if it felt guilty about it.

"Let's give some land to the Zionists in Europe or in Germany or Austria," he said. "They faced injustice in Europe, so why do the repercussions fall on the Palestinians?"

Privately, Saudi officials were furious Friday. Three senior Saudi officials who spoke to The Associated Press complained that the comments completely contradicted and diverted attention from the message of tolerance the summit was trying to project.

They spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the kingdom's often stormy ties with Tehran.

Saudi newspapers ran excerpts of Ahmadinejad's news conference where he praised the summit - but dropped the references to Israel. The comments also did not appear in Iranian newspapers, though the state news agency reported them at the time.

One Saudi official, visibly angry, compared Ahmadinejad to Saddam Hussein and Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, whose renegade statements frequently infuriated other Arab leaders.

"The Iranian president seems to have lost his direction," said Gilan al-Ghamidi, a prominent commentator in Saudi media. "Iran should be logical if it wants to receive the support of the world. The president didn't score any points. He lost points."

International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei said Friday the world was losing patience with Iran in the drawn-out nuclear negotiations.

"They are inching forward and I'm asking them to leap forward," said ElBaradei, who shares this year's Nobel Peace Prize with the agency.

He said he hopes outstanding nuclear issues with Iran will be clarified by the time he presents his next report in March because "the international community is losing patience with the nature of that program."

"The ball is in Iran's court. It is up to Iran to show the kind of transparency they need to show," ElBaradei told reporters in Oslo, Norway.


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