Monday, October 31, 2005

Khamenei Comes to Ahmadinejad's Defence

Gareth Smyth in Tehran, The Financial Times:
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on Sunday night condemned international reaction to last week’s speech by President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad calling for Israel to be “wiped off the map. In remarks reported by state media, Ayatollah Khamenei said the “leaders of the west and Europe should be ashamed of being so much under the influence of Zionists”.

But recognising the furore sparked by Mr Ahmadi-Nejad’s remarks, he also warned officials against “negligence vis-à-vis the enemy”.

Ayatollah Khamenei rejected any link between Mr Ahmadi-Nejad’s speech and Iran’s nuclear programme. Nuclear weapons cannot be employed to destroy regimes, rather … the Palestinian people’s resistance will lead to the Israeli regime being overthrown,” he said

Mr Khamenei was speaking for the first time since Mr Ahmadi-Nejad’s controversial speech, but he reflected a general attempt by Iranian officials to deflect international criticism.

Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel, parliamentary speaker, said on Sunday “Zionists” had provoked “press uproar” with the president’s remarks as a “pretext”.

Hussein Shariatmadari, influential editor-in-chief of the conservative Kayhan newspaper, wrote Mr Ahmadi-Nejad had “not said anything new … about Israel to justify such a huge political tumult”.

The Iranian foreign ministry on Saturday rejected as “unacceptable” a UN security council message reminding Iran the UN charter required member-states to “refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state”.

In a statement, the foreign ministry said Iran adheres to its commitments on the basis of the UN Charter and has never used force against any other country and never threatened any country.”

But as Tehran stressed continuity in its foreign policy, Mr Ahmadi-Nejad attacked European governments – with whom Iran says it wants to restart talks over its nuclear programme – for “lying”.

Speaking to members of the Basij Islamic militia on Sunday, Mr Ahmadi-Nejad said the Europeans’ aim was to deprive Iran of the nuclear fuel cycle.

This government has concluded the confidence-building claimed by [some] countries is a lie,” he said, referring to requests for guarantees over the peaceful nature of Tehran’s atomic programme. READ MORE

The International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN watchdog, meets in November to consider its next steps after in October finding Tehran in “non-compliance” with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty.