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Islamic Leaders Gather in Iran

April 22, 2001

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) _ Angered by what they call aggression against Palestinians, some of Israel’s most radical foes began gathering in Tehran on Sunday for a conference of resistance groups organized by Iran.

Iranian state-run television and radio heralded the Tuesday-Wednesday meeting by broadcasting patriotic Palestinian songs and footage of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli troops. Billboards publicized the event with pictures of a stone-throwing Palestinian wearing a headscarf.

The attendees included some of Israel’s worst enemies _ Khaled Mashaal, a leader of the radical Islamic Hamas movement; Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Lebanese Hezbollah; and Ramezan Abdullah, head of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

They will discuss how to support the Palestinian intefadeh, or uprising, that began in September.

``We would like and will try to undermine the security scheme of (Israeli Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon and show that he cannot do anything,″ Mohammad Sadeq Hosseini, an adviser to Iran’s minister of culture, told The Associated Press.

``The aim of the conference is to unify all of the Palestinian and Lebanese resistance groups, to bring them closer and to encourage them to work closely to support the intefadeh,″ he said.

Organizers in Iran and Hamas officials speaking from areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority said there were no immediate plans for a separate meeting between Hezbollah’s Mashaal and Hamas’ Nasrallah to discuss a closer coordination between the two groups.

Salah Zawawi, the Palestinian Authority’s ambassador in Tehran, told the AP that he expects the conference to be ``fruitful″ in gathering Muslim support for the Palestinian cause.

``I think our Iranian brothers are doing something very helpful for us by holding such a conference, and I see it as very positive,″ he said.

He said it was unlikely Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat would attend, but expected other Palestinian officials to be present.

The official Islamic Republic News Agency quoted conference spokesman Jalil Sazegarnejad as saying that the gathering also aims to push for a referendum on the future of the Palestinian territories among the ``real inhabitants of Palestine.″

It will also support calls for an international criminal tribunal in The Hague ``to bring to justice those involved in crimes against the innocent Palestinian children, men and women,″ he said.

The opening ceremony will be attended by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, President Mohammad Khatami and parliamentary speaker Mehdi Karroubi.

Palestinian supporters from other countries will also attend the conference, IRNA reported.

The Guinean parliamentary speaker Boubacar Biro Diallo, part of a delegation from the African country, said the violence that has left more than 460 people dead since September was among the ``most savage crimes taking place in the occupied lands,″ according to IRNA.

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