Friday, January 20, 2006

Ahmadinejad meets radical Palestinian chiefs in Syria

Yahoo News:
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met in Damascus with the leaders of 10 radical Palestinian movements including Islamic Jihad and Hamas. READ MORE

Ahmadinejad said he "strongly supports the Palestinian people's struggle" during the meeting, according to Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) official Maher Taher Friday.

Taher said the militant chiefs pledged to Ahmadinejad that the "Palestinian resistance and struggle would continue" against Israel.

"We expressed our solidarity with Syria, which is under pressure due to its national positions, as well as with Iran which has the right to possess nuclear technology for peaceful purposes," he added.

Islamic Jihad chief Abdullah Ramadan Shala, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal and PFLP-GC leader Ahmed Jibril were among those at the meeting, Taher said.

The meeting came one day after Islamic Jihad claimed a suicide attack in Tel Aviv that wounded 19 people. Israel blamed Tehran and Damascus for supporting the attack.

"The attack was financed by Tehran, planned in Syria and carried out by Palestinians," Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz was quoted as saying by a ministry official.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad did not attend Ahmadinejad's meeting with the Palestinian chiefs, though he and Ahmadinejad met Thursday in Damascus as the two allies reaffirmed their ties amid increasing international pressure.

While Iran faces possible UN sanctions over its nuclear program, Assad's regime is also growing more isolated over its alleged involvement in former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri's murder in February 2005.

Iran and Syria are both under US sanctions for their alleged sponsorship of terrorism and quest for weapons of mass destruction. They also stand accused of playing a spoiling role in their shared neighbor Iraq.

The ultra-conservative Iranian president has already faced international outcry over his comments describing Israel as a "tumor" that should be "wiped off the map."

During his first visit to sole regional ally Syria since his shock election win in June, Ahmadinejad described Israeli Jews as "migrants" and asked if Europeans would be willing to accommodate them.

"Give these migrants authorization to come into your countries and you will see that they no longer want to live in occupied (Palestinian) territory," Ahmadinejad said during a meeting with high-ranking Syrian officials.

"Are you prepared to open the doors of your country to migrants so that they can move freely throughout Europe? Are you going to guarantee their security and no longer engage in anti-Semitic repression if they come into your countries?" he asked, adding that he doubted Europeans' "sincerity."

Ahmadinejad also visited Shiite holy sites near the Syrian capital, including the Sitt Zeinab mosque, the Sitt-Raquiya mosque and the Mosque of Omeyyades.

Ahmadinejad and Assad were to meet later Friday before the Iranian leader ended his two-day visit to Damascus.