Arab States Silent on Iran's Remarks

By ARTHUR MAX, Associated Press Writer Thu Oct 27, 5:52 PM ET

CAIRO, Egypt - Arab governments remained silent Thursday as international condemnation grew over a call by

Iran's new president for
to be destroyed.

Despite the silence, analysts in the region said Tehran's Arab rivals may quietly be pleased to see the radical regime further isolated by its extremism.

However, some Palestinians — who would have the task of destroying Israel according to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — rejected the remarks.

"We have recognized the state of Israel and we are pursuing a peace process with Israel, and ... we do not accept the statements of the president of Iran," Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said. "This is unacceptable."

European governments condemned Ahmadinejad's comments, with British Prime Minister

Tony Blair saying they increased concerns the clerical regime is a threat to global security and may even trigger pleas for pre-emptive action against Iran.

"I have never come across a situation (with) the president of a country saying they want to wipe out" another nation, Blair told reporters Thursday.


President Jacques Chirac called the remarks "completely irresponsible" and U.N. Secretary-General
Kofi Annan
expressed "dismay" at them, in a rare rebuke of a U.N. member state.

In contrast, newspapers across the Middle East reported Wednesday's speech by Ahmadinejad without comment, many of them on their front pages.

Egyptian Foreign Ministry and Cabinet officials said Cairo would have nothing to say on the address.

Jordanian Deputy Prime Minister Marwan Muasher also declined comment, apparently to avoid further aggravating relations with Iran, which the kingdom has accused of interfering in

Iraq to strengthen the Shiite influence in the Middle East.

Analysts said Ahmadinejad's uncompromising line highlighted Iran's differences with other Middle East governments and will make it easier for the international community to take a tough line against Iran for its defiant nuclear policy.

Mohammed Wahby, a former diplomat and member of the Egyptian Council on Foreign Affairs, said it was a mistake to remain quiet about the speech, which he said undermined Mideast peace prospects.

"Recognizing Israel as an integral part of the Middle East is no longer in doubt," he said, saying Iran was only encouraging hard-liners on both sides.

Mustafa Hamarneh, head of the Strategic Studies Center at the University of Jordan, agreed that Ahmadinejad was out of step, especially with the Palestinians.

"He's an ideologue who shot from the cuff; it was not a studied statement," Hamarneh said.

Iran's threatening stance also was counterproductive to its own interests, said Wahby. It reinforces the notion that its nuclear program is aimed at developing weapons despite claims that it is meant exclusively for peaceful power generation.

"Such statement by Tehran will encourage Israel to cling to its nuclear arsenal," Wahby said.

In Iran, most newspapers covered Ahmadinejad's statement, and some ran stories covering the subsequent protests from other countries.

But hundreds of thousands of Iranians are expected to denounce Israel and back Ahmadinejad's comments across the country Friday during the annual al-Quds — or Jerusalem — Day protests.

"The world will see the anger of the Islamic world against this regime" in Israel, state-run television quoted Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki as saying.

Mustafa Alani, an analyst from the Gulf Research Center in Dubai, said Arab states will see Ahmadinejad's speech as showing up the Iranian regime to be "illogical, irrational."

"The Arab countries have benefited," Alani said. "They will never issue a statement, but they are happy that he proved the Iranians, on the regional level, are not rational."

Hidayat Nur Wahid, speaker of Indonesia's People's Consultative Assembly, said Ahmadinejad's comments are a reflection of the pressure Iran is under from the United States and others over its nuclear program.

"America has launched an anti-Iranian nuclear campaign, but on the other hand it allows Israel to have its own nuclear (program). America never criticized Israel and even always protect it by vetoing U.N. resolutions criticizing Israel," said Wahid.

Ahmadinejad also directed his wrath at countries like Egypt and Jordan which have formal relations with Israel, and other Islamic countries moving toward accommodation.

"Anybody who recognizes Israel will burn in the fire of the Islamic nation's fury," he said at a "World Without Zionism" conference.

A breakthrough meeting last month between the foreign ministers of Israel and Pakistan, a hardline Islamic country, boosted Jerusalem's hopes to break the ice with other Muslim countries.


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