ayatollah iran 298 88 ap.
(photo credit: AP)
Iranian spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called on all Arab countries planning to attend the US-sponsored Middle East peace conference slated to be held in Annapolis in November, to cancel their participation because it would hurt the Palestinians.
Khamenei on Saturday touched on remarks made Friday by Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, who warned Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas "not to fall into the trap of the coming conference."
"When the Palestinians call the conference a deception and refuse to participate," said Khamenei, "how can the other Muslim countries participate?
"Under the guise of the search for peace the United States is trying to force its will on the Palestinians," the Ayatollah continued. "The entire purpose of this peace summit is to save the Zionist regime [Israel]."
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Ehud Barak is expected to leave for Washington Sunday night for a round of visits, following a meeting with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
In the US, Barak was scheduled to meet with US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Vice President Dick Cheney, and National Security Adviser Steve Hadley.
Earlier Friday, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter met with Quartet Middle East envoy Tony Blair and said he was pessimistic about the chances for success at Annapolis.
Dichter said that the parley, tentatively scheduled for the end of November, was taking place too soon. He added that the Palestinians had not fulfilled their obligations under the first stage of the road map peace plan, and that the meeting should take place only after they have done so. Dichter predicted it would be impossible for the summit to achieve any real results.
"The Palestinians are very comfortable in the process leading up to talks," Dichter said. "Final status negotiations need to come at the right time, and not too soon. Otherwise, we'll lose ground."
Dichter also told Blair that the reason Israel has thus far abstained from an extensive military operation in the Gaza Strip was concern that such an operation would lead to the collapse of the PA, for which Israel would then be censured.
"So, even though 2,000 rockets have been fired [at Israel] since the [August 2005] disengagement from Gaza, we haven't done anything dramatic," he said.
Turning to Hamas's violent takeover of Gaza in July, Dichter called the coup an "embarrassment" for the PA, and asked how "25,000 Palestinian police failed to do anything against 11,000 Hamas operatives?"
According to Dichter, Hamas rule in Gaza has turned "the threat [Israel] most feared, a terrorist entity between us and Egypt," into a reality.
Gaza and the PA should not be treated as a single entity, Dichter warned. "Ahead of the Annapolis summit, we need to remember the reality in Gaza and the West Bank. Any attempt to join them is like trying to join crude oil and water," he added.
"We need to be wary of declarations. [Abbas] says 'one authority and one law,' and I believe what he says. But those same declarations were made at the [Sharm e-Sheikh summit], and then at Aqaba, and then in Washington. These good declarations haven't brought about any serious action," Dichter said.
"If the PA doesn't build a law enforcement hierarchy, there's no chance the way things work there will change," he added.