Iranian president's statement unacceptable to Russia too


MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Marianna Belenkaya.) The Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's new statement concerning Israel has shocked the entire international community, including Russia.

The statement was not scandalous in itself, as it was mostly in line with the traditional attitude of the Iranian leadership to Israel. Unfortunately, it was made at the wrong time and in the wrong place. The Iranian president has provoked international criticism of not only his country but also of several other states, including Russia, and it appears that he did this deliberately. Why?

The president of Iran said at a session of the Organization of the Islamic Conference in Mecca that the European states, primarily Austria and Germany, "who consider themselves responsible for the extermination of Jews during World War II should hand over a part of their territory to Israel." After that he spoke about the suffering of Palestinians under the oppression of "Israeli occupiers," whose actions are condoned by the international community.

Ahmadinejad makes no secret of his views and he won the presidential election largely because of his harsh foreign policy stand. But politicians who refuse to recognize the Holocaust have long become obsolete, and such behavior cannot be regarded as anything other than preposterous.

The Iranian president's statement did a disservice to the Islamic leaders, who had come to Mecca to discuss ways of improving the image of Islam in the world. His harsh attacks against Israel will not improve the image of Islam that is inseparably linked with Iran's image, even though some people say that religion and politics are two different things.

Ahmadinejad also did a disservice to the Palestinian leadership, who is resolved to promote dialogue with Israel whatever the difficulties. Despite problems hindering the progress of the Palestinian-Israeli settlement, nobody in Palestine officially denies Israel's right to existence. In fact, it was the decision of the Palestine Liberation Organization to recognize Israel in 1993 that started the peace process.

The statements made by the Iranian president irritated Moscow and undermined peace in the Middle East. It looks as if Tehran is set to frame Russia, especially because this was not the first shocking anti-Israeli statement made by the Iranian president.

In late October, when Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov tried to explain in Jerusalem why Moscow was against sending the Iranian nuclear dossier to the UN Security Council, Ahmadinejad cited an old statement by Imam Khomeini, "The Zionist entity must be razed from the face of earth." This time the Iranian president made the verbal attack several days after Russia signed a contract to deliver the Tor-M1 air defense systems to Iran.

The news about the Russo-Iranian deal engendered expected criticism in the West, primarily in the Untied States and Israel, though formally the contract does not violate international norms. Tor-M1 is a defensive system designed for protection of crucial administrative and military facilities from air strikes. But the U.S. and Israel said such deliveries allowed Iran to feel it can act with impunity. In short, the Iranian president's statement has provoked a blow at Moscow, even though it may be in its rights.

In consequence, Russia reacted violently to Ahmadinejad's outrageous statement, which Moscow described as "unacceptable."

"It is difficult to comment on such statements. There are generally recognized historical facts of WWII, and the Holocaust is one of them," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. "These facts cannot be revised, as everyone should know."

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