Iran Hosting Conference on 'Palestinian Rights'

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:17 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Iran is hosting an international conference this week intended to "promote the rights" of the Palestinian people and strengthen 'the spirit of resistance."

Israel said the conference would bring nothing but more sorrow to the Palestinians.

Iran has supported the most radical Palestinian element for years, encouraging suicide bombings and providing finances, weapons and training to terrorist groups. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad openly calls for the destruction of the State of Israel.

Initiated by Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the conference is due to begin in Tehran on Friday, according to the official Iranian news agency IRNA.

The aim of the three-day conference is to promote "communication" between Islamic states and Palestinians, said Iranian parliamentarian Heshmatollah Falahat-Pisheh.

The conference will lay the groundwork for a "practical contribution" from the Islamic world and other nations in terms of supporting the Palestinian intifadah (uprising), said Nasser Sarmadi Parsa, Iran's Ambassador to Tajikistan.

"The conference can play a leading role in restoring the rights of the oppressed Palestinians by strengthening the spirit of resistance [a euphemism for terrorism] among them," Parsa said, according to IRNA.

Following the overwhelming Hamas victory in Palestinian Authority parliamentary elections, Western countries have cut funding to the P.A., leaving Hamas to scramble to pay the salaries of 140,000 civil servants. According to a Hamas official, Iran has promised to make up the shortfall.

Six newly elected Hamas parliamentarians are scheduled to attend the conference and hope to meet with Iranian officials on the sidelines of the conference, media reports said.

Hamas parliamentarian Mushir Al-Masri said the P.A. wanted "to be open to all Arab and Muslim countries in order to urge them to stand beside us in the face of this Western boycott," the Kuwait Times website reported.

More than 100 participants from 70 countries are expected to attend the conference. They are primarily from Palestinian and Islamic organizations such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, said Iranian expert here Menashe Amir.

According to IRNA, parliament speakers from Islamic states will join in the conference.

But Amir said the Islamic countries in general don't like the "obsessive treatment" that Iran gives the Palestinian issue. They think Iran uses it as propaganda for its own political and religious interests, he said. "It's part of their propaganda against Israel and Judaism."

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said Israel and the international community remain concerned about the Iranian regime's support for extremist elements.

"The Iranian position is clear. They believe that Israel should be destroyed... 'wiped off the map,'" said Regev. "It's not just a statement of desire; Iran [is giving] very tangible and hands-on support to the most radical extremist elements in the Palestinian Authority...

"They promote nihilist, extreme jihadist theology, which says no to peace, no to [compromise] and no to negotiations and in parallel they seek to energize the most extreme and blood thirsty terrorist elements," Regev said. "They do it...through direct financial support, through logistical support, in providing training, equipment, weaponry and explosives."

Ahmadinejad met with Hamas and other terrorist leaders in Damascus in January prior to the P.A. elections and pledged his support for the terrorist groups. Iran also supports Hizballah, based in southern Lebanon.

Iran is trying to destabilize the situation, restart the violence and push the Palestinians in a negative direction, said Regev.

"Nothing good will come out of the conference, nothing good will come out of it for the Palestinians," said Regev. "Iran is only offering the Palestinians more blood and despair. The future is only in peace and in reconciliation and regional cooperation and Tehran is fundamentally opposed to those goals," he said.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said he was not aware of the conference and could not comment on Hamas' participation in it.

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