Source AP ©

Iran says Mideast peace conference not to help Palestinians

The upcoming Mideast peace conference aims to salvage America's reputation in the region and will not defend the rights of Palestinians, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Monday, calling the meeting a failure.

"Today, all politicians in advance know that this conference has already failed," Khamenei said in a speech broadcast by state TV. "The U.S. and its accomplices hope to preserve their reputation by this conference and compensate past failures of the fake Zionist (Israeli) regime."

Khamenei's comments came on the heels of a telephone call late Sunday between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah in which the Iranian president expressed disappointment at Saudi's participation in the conference, which is scheduled for Tuesday in Annapolis, Maryland.

"I wish the name of Saudi Arabia was not among the participants at the Annapolis conference," the official news agency IRNA quoted Ahmadinejad as saying.

The Iranian president said the U.S. could not be a legitimate host for the conference because "it is an accomplice to Zionist (Israeli) crimes." He urged Arab countries to be watchful of Israeli plots and deception, IRNA reported.

Also Sunday, Ahmadinejad said in a public speech that the peace conference would help Israel and "has no benefit for the oppressed Palestinian nation."

He questioned the intelligence of the representatives attending the meeting, accusing them of making concessions to Israel - an apparent reference to Arab neighbors like Saudi Arabia and Syria who are sending senior officials to the conference.

Nearly 50 nations and organizations are set to attend the summit to relaunch the long stalled Middle East peace process. Iran is not among the invitees.

In October, Iran called the conference a hopeless exercise, but fear over the Islamic Republic's growing influence and regional ambitions may have helped push the Arabs and Israelis finally to explore a solution the six-decade old conflict.

According to U.S. and other Western intelligence, Iran has helped establish what amounts to a client state in the Gaza Strip, the smaller of two Palestinian territories that would make up an eventual independent nation.

Iran denies the charge and says its support to Palestinians groups is limited to humanitarian aide.