AFP: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad chided Saudi Arabia for taking part in a US-hosted Middle East peace meeting, after Arab participation in the event left Tehran isolated, media reported on Monday. TEHRAN (AFP) Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad chided Saudi Arabia for taking part in a US-hosted Middle East peace meeting, after Arab participation in the event left Tehran isolated, media reported on Monday.
Ahmadinejad bluntly told Saudi King Abdullah in a telephone conversation that he wished the kingdom was not attending the conference alongside Israeli and Palestinian leaders starting on Tuesday in Annapolis, Maryland.
“I wish the name of Saudi Arabia was not among those attending the Annapolis conference,” Ahmadinejad told the king late Sunday, according to state news agency IRNA.
“Arab countries should be watchful in the face of the plots and deception of the Zionist enemy,” he added.
The Islamic republic — which has made non-recognition of Israel one of its main ideological themes — has been left isolated by the attendance at the meeting of Saudi Arabia and its chief regional ally Syria.
More than a dozen Arab countries are sending representatives. Iraq’s presence is not confirmed and the Islamist Hamas movement which controls Gaza in defiance of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas is one of the few certain Arab absentees.
“The US government, which is an accomplice to Zionist crimes, cannot play the role of saviour by hosting the Annapolis conference,” Ahmadinejad told the Saudi king.
Saudi Arabia and other Arab states agreed on Friday to attend the conference, meaning the kingdom will sit at the same table with the Jewish state for the first time to discuss Middle East peacemaking.
In another landmark move, Israeli foe Syria agreed on Sunday at the last minute to send Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad.
Damascus had made its presence conditional on the inclusion of the issue of the Golan Heights, which Israel has occupied since 1967, on the agenda of the conference.
Ahmadinejad on Sunday spoke by telephone to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, saying “only the true representatives of the Palestinian people can take decisions” on their future.
Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also reaffirmed his condemnation of the conference, which he predicted was “doomed to failure”.
“They hope the conference will help the usurping Zionist regime and save the honour of the Black House,” he said in a speech to militia volunteers, in a sarcastic reference to the White House.
Tehran’s anger over the involvement of Riyadh in the conference is the latest hiccup in relations between Shiite majority Iran and Sunni majority Saudi Arabia that have not always been smooth.
But the two regional heavyweights have worked to give an impression of unity in recent years, vowing to work together to end the political crisis in Lebanon and bring stability to Iraq.
Ahead of the annual hajj pilgrimage next month, Iran has also been urging Saudi Arabia to crack down on religious extremism following reports of anti-Shiite sermons and pamphlets in the kingdom.
In July 1987, 402 people, mostly Iranians, were killed in clashes between Iranians and Saudi security forces during the hajj, an incident that cast a shadow over relations for years.
King Abdullah was quoted as saying by IRNA that Riyadh would “never” recognise Israel. These remarks have yet to be confirmed by Saudi official media.
Despite sharing no borders, Israel and Iran are the region’s two bitterest foes. The tensions have intensified further over the Iranian nuclear programme, which Israel — the region’s sole if undeclared nuclear power — charges is aimed at making an atomic bomb.
Ahmadinejad has repeatedly courted controversy by predicting Israel is doomed to disappear, most notoriously calling in 2005 for the Jewish state to be “wiped off the map”. But Iran insists its atomic drive is peaceful.
Israel was an ally of the imperial regime of shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, developing close military and economic ties with Iran until the shah’s overthrow in the Islamic revolution of 1979.