Iran's supreme ruler came out in support of his maligned president on Saturday, who created an international storm by demanding Israel be moved to Europe and casting doubt on whether the Holocaust happened.
"The unusual sensitivity of Zionists and their American supporters toward Iran's stance over the Zionist state reveals their increased weakness and fear about the level of attention given by Islamic countries to the Palestinian issue," state-run Iranian radio quoted Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as saying.
"Despite the Zionist's campaign, the struggle against the occupiers has become an old and thick tree in the Islamic world such that the arrogant powers could not sever its roots," he added.
Khamenei did not refer specifically to Ahmadinejad's remarks made Thursday in Saudi Arabia on the sidelines of a Saudi Arabian summit of more than 50 Islamic countries, convened to show a Muslim front against terrorism.
But the United States, Israel, Europe, United Nations and even Iran's ally Russia condemned Ahmadinejad for casting doubt on whether the Nazi Holocaust took place and suggesting Europe give land for a Jewish state if it felt guilty about it.
'World should vote on status of Israel'
Later, state-run television quote Khamenei as saying the world should vote on the status of Israel and the Palestinian territories, a suggestion previously floated by other Iranian officials.
"Nations would support Iran's proposal for holding a referendum on Palestine to decide about the future of the land," he said.
Khamenei has ultimate say on all issues in Iran and backed similar controversial remarks made in October by Ahmadinejad, who said Israel should be "wiped off the map."
Ahmadinejad emerged from the hardline establishment as a surprise victor in June elections on a platform of helping Iran's poor and a return to the values of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Since taking office, he has pushed hard-core rhetoric recalling the revolution's leader Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
Iran plans to hold an international conference on "Support Palestine's Islamic Revolution" in April 2006.