Iran General NewsIsraelis as friends? Iran legislators say no

Israelis as friends? Iran legislators say no

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ImageNew York Times: There are some things, Iran’s Parliament has decided, that a public official should simply not be allowed to say — especially in reference to Israel.

The New York Times

By NAZILA FATHI
Published: August 13, 2008

ImageTEHRAN — There are some things, Iran’s Parliament has decided, that a public official should simply not be allowed to say — especially in reference to Israel.

Threats of a “crushing response” to Israeli aggression seem to be fine, as a representative of Iran’s supreme leader recently demonstrated. But suggesting that Iran is a friend of the Israeli people, well, that is an “unforgivable mistake,” Parliament declared Wednesday.

In a statement signed by some 200 members of the 290-seat assembly, Iranian lawmakers called on President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to dismiss Esfandiar Rahim Mashai, the vice president for tourism, after he repeated on Sunday his earlier comment that “we are a friend of all people in the world, even Israelis and Americans.”

In his comments, Mr. Mashai, a political ally of Mr. Ahmadinejad and one of his in-laws, specified “for a thousandth time” that his country was against Israel, not Jews.

But Parliament was not placated. “We do not recognize a country called Israel and so we cannot recognize a nation called Israel,” the lawmakers said in their statement, according to Fars, the semiofficial Iranian news agency.

“If Mr. Mashai does not have the political awareness that the Israeli people are the same people who have occupied the homes of millions of innocent and oppressed Palestinians and have created the army of the Zionist regime, he has no right to hold such a position,” the statement added.

Mr. Mashai, whose daughter recently married Mr. Ahmadinejad’s son, was the second member of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s cabinet to come under fire by Parliament this week.

Parliament also ordered an investigation into the academic credentials of Ali Kordan, the interior minister who was approved by lawmakers this month despite great opposition. He secured the post only after Mr. Ahmadinejad said he had the personal backing of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The Interior Ministry is in a delicate position because the minister would be responsible for carrying out the presidential elections in 2010.

Mr. Kordan had claimed that he had obtained an honorary doctorate from Oxford in 2000 for “opening a new chapter” in comparative legal studies.

But one of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s opponents in Parliament, Ahmad Tavakoli, inquired about the authenticity of Mr. Kordan’s degree from the university and posted the answer on his Web site.

“The University of Oxford has no record of Mr. Ali Kordan receiving an honorary doctorate or any other degree from the university,” according to a letter from the university posted on the Web site. It also said that the professors who had signed Mr. Kordan’s certificate did not work in the field of law or ever signed certificates.

Mr. Kordan has served in high positions in government, but his critics say his education amounts to only a midlevel college diploma.

The government retaliated by blocking the Web site, and Mr. Ahmadinejad said that Mr. Kordan should not be judged based on a “piece of torn paper.”

Parliament was elected in March and is dominated by conservative politicians, many of whom criticize Mr. Ahmadinejad’s policies.

Mr. Khamenei, the supreme leader, who has the final word on all state matters, has backed Mr. Ahmadinejad in recent months as the criticisms have become fiercer amid inflation of 26 percent.

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