Iranians Lecture Foreigners on ‘Zionist Crimes’ and West’s ‘Lust for Power’

By Patrick Goodenough | October 15, 2008 | 5:01 AM EDT

Dialogue is good and necessary, but until the Western “lust for power" is curbed, the world's problems will remain, Iran's leaders have told foreign visitors.

( – Dialogue is good and necessary, but until the Western “lust for power” is curbed, the world’s problems will remain, Iran’s leaders have told foreign visitors.
“The world will only see peace once calls for justice and the fight against oppression become an integral part of the quest for peace,” spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told a group that included political and religious figures.
Dialogue and visits and discussions could help overcome misunderstandings but are not enough “to control and check unpleasant features of global hegemonic powers,” which pursue superiority over others by exerting economic and political pressure or intervening militarily, he said.
Referring to what he called the “heinous massacre” of Iraqis, Afghans and Palestinians, Khamenei asked whether such “painful catastrophes” occur because of misunderstandings between nations or because of world powers’ “lust for power,” the Irna news agency reported.
The visitors are in Tehran for a religious conference hosted by former president Mohammad Khatami, who runs a “dialogue among civilizations” initiative and is expected to seek another presidential term next year.
The group includes former U.N. secretary-general Kofi Annan, former Norwegian and Italian prime ministers Kjell Magne Bondevik and Romano Prodi; former presidents of Ireland and Portugal Mary Robinson and Jorge Sampai; and Episcopal Bishop of Washington John Bryson Chane.
In a separate meeting earlier, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told some of the visitors that after 60 years of “Zionist crimes,” peace agreements being pursued would not solve the Palestinian issue.
“The problem cannot be solved as long as Palestinian lands are occupied [and] five million Palestinians are homeless, even if all governments come and sign peace pacts,” he said.
Another condition for ending crises in the region, Ahmadinejad said, would be the withdrawal of American and other foreign forces from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Irna said several of the visitors during the meeting with Khamenei had condemned the Iraq war.
It quoted Bondevik, the former Norwegian premier, as voicing concern about tensions between the Islamic world and the West, attributing them to the West having humiliated Muslims and having presented a distorted view of Islam.
Bondevik is the head of a non-governmental organization called the Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights. He was involved in a controversial interfaith meeting with Ahmadinejad in New York City last month, organized by five religious “peace” groups and widely condemned.
Bondevik said in a statement this week that it was imperative to establish dialogue between the Islamic world and the West  before armed conflict erupts, and that was what the Olso Center strived to do.
“The aggressive rhetoric creates fertile ground for enemy images, stereotypes and generalizations,” he said. “Increased understanding of the opinions of other religions and cultures is important for the building of alliances in the struggle for peace and human rights.”
Bondevik also said that during the meeting with Ahmadinejad, he had raised Israel’s right to exist and the “deplorable” human rights situation in Iran. He said he had urged the Iranian government to stop the proposed move to declare apostasy a capital offense.
“The death penalty is a deliberate homicide by the state. It cannot be justified whether it takes place in Iran or in the USA,” he said.
Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow