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IRAN: Ahmadinejad slams Arabs for sluggish response to Gaza fighting

January 15, 2009 |  9:42 am

Ahmadinejad2He first slammed Arab governments for standing idly by while Israel continued to kill Palestinians in Gaza.

Then Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad asserted that the Islamic republic was the nation spearheading “political pressure” to stop the Jewish state’s war on Palestinians and those who support it.

Ahmadinejad, who spoke in an interview with Hezbollah’s TV channel, Al-Manar, on Wednesday evening, claimed that Iran does not have any leverage over the Palestinian militant group, Hamas, which, according to him, is totally independent.

Western powers believe that Iran supplies Hamas with weapons.

Ahmadinejad mostly seemed to be capitalizing on deep Arab divisions over the best way to end the fighting in Gaza:

"They can break off all kinds of relations with this entity. They can make use of their political abilities and pressure the supporters of the Zionist entity. They can threaten U.S., England and other countries. They can also benefit from their economic strength to make the change... They can, at least, allow their people to interfere and express themselves.”

Arab governments are divided over the way to stop the fighting in Gaza, which has claimed the lives of more than 1,000 Palestinians so far.

The rift between Arab leaders became clear recently when Qatar called for an urgent Arab summit in Doha on Friday. In a televised address on Wednesday evening, the Qatari ruler, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, said that Arab countries should freeze their ties with Israel.

Ironically, Qatar itself hasn’t so far cut its discrete diplomatic relations with the Jewish state. 

Countries such as Syria, which is a strong supporter of Hamas and a strategic ally of Iran, agreed to take part in the Doha meeting.

But the so-called moderate Arab nations, mainly Egypt and Saudi Arabia, refused to attend the Arab meeting in Qatar. Egyptian officials argued that high-ranking Arab officials could discuss Gaza on the sidelines of an upcoming economic conference in Kuwait.

Egypt, which came under harsh criticism for tacitly giving its consent to the Israeli attack on Hamas, also believes that there is no need for a summit while a proposal for a cease-fire is on the table. Egyptians are currently playing the role of mediators between Hamas and Israelis.

Saudi Arabia, on its part, called for a third meeting for politicians from the Persian Gulf to discuss Gaza.

Behind all these surfacing fissures lie old rivalries over political and economic leadership of the Arab world.

Meanwhile, ordinary Arab people are clearly not on the same wavelength as their leaders. Daily, tens or hundreds of thousands stage angry protests against Israel.

-- Raed Rafei in Beirut

Photo: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Credit: Los Angeles Times

P.S. Get news from Lebanon and Israel and the rest of the Middle East in your mailbox every day. The Los Angeles Times distributes a free daily newsletter with the latest headlines from the Middle East, including the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. You can subscribe by logging in at the website here, clicking on the box for "L.A. Times updates" and then clicking on the "World: Mideast" box.

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