Source AP ©

Iranian President claims Israel doomed to "collapse", Mideast conference to fail

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iranian President, claimed Israel is doomed to "collapse" and that the Mideast peace conference was a "failure" from the very beginning.

The comments were the first time in months that the hard-line Ahmadinejad has used such strong anti-Israeli rhetoric, highlighting Tehran's bitterness towards Tuesday's conference, which its closest Arab ally Syria attended.

"It is impossible that the Zionist regime will survive. Collapse is in the nature of this regime because it has been created on aggression, lying, oppression and crime," Ahmadinejad said after a Cabinet meeting, according to state-run television.

"Soon, even the most politically doltish individuals will understand that this conference was a failure from the beginning," he said, the official IRNA news agency reported.

In a reference to Arab countries who attended the conference, he said, "We are disappointed that some individuals fell victim to the sinister Zionist regime. They are mistaken if they thought that this summit will bring any achievements for them."

Iran has repeatedly condemned the Annapolis conference, saying it would fail to bring any peace for the Palestinians and warning that Arab countries who participated will be discredited in the eyes of their people. Iran on Tuesday expressed surprise that Damascus participated in the gathering, though it has stopped short of directly criticizing its ally.

Ahmadinejad said the Palestinian "resistance" such as Hamas, which is backed by Tehran must have a say in any settlement.

"Many such meetings have been held but have failed," he said. "If decision is made about Palestine, representatives of the elected Palestinian government and resistance should be there and the rights of the Palestinian people self-determination, the right of voting and return of refugees must be recognized," he said.

Ahmadinejad has raised controversy in the West with past predictions of Israel's eventual destruction, including a comment saying it should be "wiped off" or "disappear" from the map. But more recently, he has stayed away from such comments amid criticism at home that inflammatory speeches were needlessly provoking the West against Iran.

U.S. officials have expressed hopes that the Annapolis conference, which launched Israeli-Palestinian peace talks for the first time in seven years, would weaken the hard-line alliance of Iran, Syria, and the Hamas and Hezbollah militant groups.

Syria has defended its attendance, saying it is open to any serious attempt to reach a peace deal with Israel that brings the return of the Golan Heights. Syria's deputy foreign minister, Faysal Mekdad, told the conference Tuesday his country was "sincere in our pursuit of a just and comprehensive peace."

Mekdad said his country was ready to normalize relations with Israel, but only "after the full Israeli withdrawal from the Arab lands occupied in 1967," according to a copy of the speech he gave to the closed-door session, obtained by The Associated Press.

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